Whole Life Magazine

June / July 2017

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Page 15 of 35

THE EDGE OF KINDNESS inspire W e all have an edge of kindness, a point at which our state of mind and behavior turn from compassion to aggression. The edge is different for each per- son, and can even be different based on the scenario. Here's one that brought this into focus for me recently: Sitting at home, I watched a large spider walking proudly and resplendently. I gently and respectfully laid a dustpan near it, waiting patiently and deferentially for this perfect creature to mosey onto it. Releasing it outside, I was happy I had dealt kindly with my potential foe—until I walked into my bathroom and found ten ants making themselves at home. Again, sticking with my principles, I found a way to com- passionately remove the ants, even though this time I felt frazzled as they moved quickly and crawled on me. Confi - dent at fi rst that I reclaimed my home showing love, respect, and kindness to the bug kingdom, I later felt betrayed. Over- night, the ants—and hundreds of their friends—invaded my bathroom, covering every surface. Rage set in. "I gave you the chance to live and let live, but now you have gone too far!" And in the space of a moment, it was war. I sprayed them with a vengeance, and unemotion- ally cleaned up their corpses. Why did my actions and intentions change so dramatically? Normally a peaceful person, what caused me to turn to aggres- sion—even violence? I was fi ne with the spider, annoyed by the fi rst ten ants, but then I reached a point where I felt threatened. I didn't know whether I could control the swarm of ants, and felt entitled to do something about it. I was the same person, with the same principles: someone who acts from a place of kindness and respect for all living crea- tures—until I wasn't. I realized that as long as I felt in control and unthreatened, I could easily express kindness, respect, and love. But the moment I felt invaded and intruded upon, the moment that my space, body, and belongings were intruded upon, I quickly became entitled to take the life of another being. This dichotomy reminded me of some of the married couples I see for counseling. Most begin with the best intentions, a mutu- al vision of the future and a yearning to act in partnership. Yet be- fore long, their vision of a family unit is replaced by the need to reclaim their own boundaries, privacy, and space—what they be- lieve they are entitled to, even if it means sacrifi cing their partner's character, rights, and needs. Some even vow to destroy the other emotionally and fi nancially, when divorcing, and feel no guilt or self-recrimination. Where do you draw the line? From 20,000 feet, any issue can seem black and white: I either respect all living beings or I don't. But when you are faced with a moral dilemma, there is a lot of gray. My moral anguish over killing the ants led to a conversation with the producer of Dogstown Redemption, a documentary about the rights of the homeless population versus the rights of a community that has worked hard and invested much in their neighborhoods. The anguish about my own edge continued as I con- sidered the plight of the Syrian refugees in Europe. Many Europeans made a compassionate invitation to the refu- gees, so they could rebuild their lives in a respectful and healthy environment. But as the numbers grew and the resources became scarcer, some began to resent the im- migrants' presence. Others felt entitled to protect what was theirs. Merely watching the nightly news we see examples of people who suddenly felt entitled to shoot to kill. So, where is your edge of kindness? Under what con- ditions will you choose to be kind? What will cause you to switch your thinking from "what's good for us" to "what's best for me"? Is it when you feel threatened that you be- come entitled to destroy another? By Dr. Foojan Zeine Moving from Aggression to Compassion Aggression 16 wholelifetimes.com

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