“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you
don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not
doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or
less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have
problems with our friends or family, we blame the other
person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will
grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive
effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason
and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no
reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you
understand, and you show that you understand, you can
love, and the situation will change”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh
There are a lot of things about myself that I would like to change. My eating habits, my organizational habits, my tendency to put things off, my fear of failure. I have been going about the process with the idea that I just need more self control, or I just need more grit, or a commitment, or a magic word, or a rubber band around my wrist that I can snap every time I reach for a brownie. And while these can be good things, they aren’t really working for me. In fact, they never have. Why then, would I continue to use methods that do not work? Because I believe they work. I have written them into my story.
From the moment we are born, we are writing a story, the story of our perception of reality. This story covers every aspect of our lives, and answers questions such as “Can people be trusted?” “Am I worth loving?” “What is Truth?” “What is Justice?” or “What will it take to make me happy?” Most of the important questions are answered before we even know we are asking them. Each of us has written a unique story, and none of them are perfect reflections of reality.
In the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant, each man experiences a different part of the elephant, and each man comes away with a different idea of what the elephant is, and what it’s for. Each man possesses the same amount of truth regarding the elephant, but what they have to gain from each other is perspective. So it is with our stories. None is any more or less true than the other. We do not need to seek truth from others, we have it within ourselves, but what we do need to seek is perspective. With understanding, and without judgement, there is much that we can learn from our fellow humans, about life, and about ourselves.
But other people are not the only ones who need our understanding. We need to stop judging and blaming ourselves. There is a reason for our behavior, and if our behavior needs to change, it is easier done with love and understanding than with any amount of self control.