Oh, the world is full of wondrous lessons that keep us on our toes. Oftentimes we have no idea that what’s happening is an opportunity to learn, because many of these lessons are ushered into our lives by resistance or adversity!
For example: an event takes place, we look at it, interpret the event as adversity, a misfortune, or a setback, and then we decide it is worthy of a negative response. So we resist, defend, or fight. Now, mind you, all of this happens in the twinkling of an eye. This is not a conscious response, it is a reactive, unconscious response based on our belief system and past experiences.
While we are resisting, we are gathering all pertinent information to back up the rightness of our decision to resist. We are culling the archives of our past experiences, so we can justify ourselves to others if they question our behavior when we denounce or fight back. We may even try to get others to join us in the resistance, allies to bolster the strength of our defense. Does this sound familiar to you? It is the age-old pattern of reactivity, defense, and thinking we are right, which means they are wrong.
Much harm has come to the world through this pattern of reacting to perceived adversity: bigotry, abuse, broken relationships, misuse of power, polarized communities, and in the extreme, war. Some good has come from it too: high ideals represented, just causes becoming recognized. Yet when people standing up for “just causes” make the “other side” sound mindless, evil, stupid, you name it, it only causes more polarization, a breakdown of communication, and diminishes the possibility of common ground or community. In my mind, the harm done far outweighs the good.
Is it natural to resist, to be afraid of the unknown, the different, and the foreign? Sure. It is a defense mechanism to keep us safe and whole, heralding back to the time of the woolly mammoth and survival. But just because we have the feeling of adversity or resistance doesn’t mean we “have to” attack or defend ourselves. Am I saying to stand back and do nothing? Absolutely not! Having the truth be known is vital to our growth as human beings. So what to do, especially when you care?
At approximately 4:00 p.m. each day, the British take tea. A long-standing tradition, teatime is an oasis in the day, a time to sit and relax, to refresh themselves after the industrious part of the day is done, and to enjoy friendship and gracious conversation. It is a peaceful time-out.
When a lesson comes waltzing into our lives with resistance as its partner, or an event occurs and we feel the desire to resist or defend, what would it be like if we took a nice deep breath, paused until we felt calm, and then said,
“Pull up a chair, let us take tea together. Let us take some time to explore and be curious, being respectful of each other while being responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. Let’s have a peaceful time-out.”
Instead of reacting, we get curious about the other person and their intentions as well as our own. We open our mind and heart instead of having our hackles come up and our lips turn into a sneer, looking for the jugular and wanting to prove that we are right. Some of my greatest learning has come from checking out my assumptions about the truth, by asking instead of telling, and discovering that my assumptions were not true at all.
So often it seems we forget the things that are most important to us. We want to feel peaceful, and yet we don’t. Choosing peace is a skill, a discipline, and a delight! And choosing peace is our gift to ourselves and the world.
Take tea with adversity; listen, learn, and then choose peace.
1. What are the things about yourself that you react to most strongly (e.g., needing to be right when your thoughts are challenged, feeling hurt if you don’t get what you want)?
2. What are your patterns of reactivity (e.g., the silent treatment, arguing, isolating, addictions)?
3. What is the impact in your relationships and on you?
4. What is one new behavior you will do that will give you healthier results?
I encourage you to share your responses to the reflection questions in the comments section.
With love and gratitude,