This is part 33 of my series on Lojong; a Buddhist mind training technique.
There is a person in my life who I find somewhat rude, at times unethical, and underhanded. I’ve spent a great deal of time complaining about this person and the wishing this person could be out of my life completely. I have been dropped my jaw at what I deemed to be unethical behaviour and focused on the behaviours that I have judged to be unacceptable. I have allowed things to get to a painful point.
This slogan ~ Don’t bring things to a painful point ~ is about shifting focus. When we become entrenched in the negative aspects of a person or situation it has more to do with us that what is external. Sometimes in order to make ourselves feel better we critique others faults or vulnerabilities. Another way to handle such situations is to encourage or praise their strengths. Psychologically this is called positive reinforcement (adding something positive, namely our praise, to increase a behaviour). This is a very powerful method of learning and is more effective than negative reinforcement, positive punishment or negative punishment (you can read more about operant conditioning here). This may sound somewhat manipulative, but the point on a more spiritual level is to get us thinking in terms of what a person is doing right as opposed to focusing on what they’re doing wrong. As a manager, I’ve learned to ‘catch people doing things right’ for the same reason.
Back to the slogan; when we point out and encourage others strengths we are no longer trying to heighten our own confidence by undermining another. This takes more skill and more awareness and in the long run increases both parties confidence, happiness and increases loving kindness in the world.
For me, I will focus more on the strengths of the person I have mentioned above; I will shift my focus when I find myself slipping back to my old habits. And be sure that I will find myself at some point complaining about this person- after all, I am not an enlightened individual, but just another soul on a journey finding my way step by step.