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How to love the scared and scary ones

How do you love someone who is scared and who scares you?

I was reminded of this question, posed by Tsoknyi Rinpoche in his book "Open Heart, Open Mind," this week as I watched the Internet react to what we might term "difficult people" in our metta practice -- Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and a Connecticut woman who filmed the bears who followed her on a walk in the woods.Both women were the targets of much criticism and derision for their their actions, both received death threats via social networks from people who disagreed with what they'd done.

How, as Buddhists, do we respond when someone does something that we see as "not right" action (as opposed to the appropriate ones outlined in the Buddha's eight-fold path)? How do we react to someone who is confused and who not only doesn't know that but righteously insists they are correct?

How do you love someone who is scared and who scares you?

Tsoknyi Rinpoche offers a clear answer: Discipline.

Ah, you may think, I get to swat them every time they misbehave until they get it right.

Eh ... no.

The discipline here is not for them but for you.

Practicing discipline involves continually working to find space in our patterns, to find the gaps in the images we hold about ourselves. It also means finding gaps in our ideas about others, releasing images we hold about a manager, a coworker, a friend, or a partner.

Or a demonized public figure.

The discipline is to keep coming back, no matter how righteously riled up you are, to the idea that -- just like you -- that person is a buddha waiting to emerge from the thick veil of confusion that keeps them from recognizing their innate perfection (and yours and the gay couple's). Just like you, that person is scrambling to create order, to find ground, to pull into a safe harbor. And just because you grab onto a different piece of ground does not negate your shared humanity.

The discipline is to see the humanity of the person you would demonize, to recognize their confusion, and to love them because their inherent nature is love.

Then when you express an opinion about their actions you do it with respect -- for their humanity and your own -- in a way that allows space for change rather than locking everyone into separate corners, prepared to defend themselves to the (threatened) death.

That is the real meaning of discipline: maintaining love, maintaining the hope that every living being will awaken, even in the most difficult or challenging conditions.


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