GOODWILL BEGINS WITH THE SELF
Goodwill begins with the self and then radiates outwards. Only with goodwill towards oneself can a person have it towards others. Our own well-being has to come first.
Self-love sometimes has a bad name because of its connotation of conceit. Fortunately, there is more than this to self-love. There is the verse in the Bible that says, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
In the best sense, self-love is being free to be oneself. You don't hide who you are, and you don't pretend to be who or what you are not. Rather, you revel in the complexity of being this particular human being.
Self-love is turning toward oneself as distinct from turning away from oneself. It is being close to oneself as distinct from being distant from oneself. It is attentive interest, wanting to know a person and wanting to get to know the person better. Self-love attends to; self-dislike moves away.
Self-love is not excessively analytical. It is being close to the entire person, not just selected aspects. It is love for the person just as the person is, not as one might wish him or her to be. When you love, you love the person with his or her faults and imperfections. Self-love is not careful and measured but is generous and kind. It forgives faults and imperfections. When you seek self-love, you seek love for yourself exactly as you are and not the least little bit as you wish you were.
Self-love is gentle and soft-spoken. It does not show itself when consciousness is occupied with self-shaming and self-blaming.
Little by little, as a person turns his or her consciousness again and again toward self-love, it becomes more and more real, and the labor of finding it becomes less and less.
Self-love is always appropriate. When you are dominated by self-shaming or self-blaming, you feel uncomfortable with the idea of self-love, as if you didn't deserve it, and the discomfort with the idea can prevent you from asserting it. In this case, you can consider this attitude: "Because I believe in it, I assert it, despite my discomfort, without pretending to feel anything I don't really feel or to believe anything I don't really believe. I simply assert it, as a value."
Both body and mind deserve self-love. Both are wonderful, amazing, and lovable. The bodily cells keep us energetic and warm. Blood cells carry nutrients and fight bacteria and viruses. The mind is perceiving, interpreting, analyzing, reasoning, planning, suggesting, and creating. All aspects of both body and mind deserve love and appreciation. It is always appropriate to assert them.
With a turning toward oneself in love, one also turns toward pleasing, satisfying, and enjoying oneself. In this endeavor, too, it is appropriate to use words, moving one's perception of oneself and one's life away from the punishing of shaming and blaming and toward the gift-giving of love. Implicit in it are the words, "I take an interest in my welfare. I want to enjoy myself. I search out ways to please myself. I am deserving of good things' happening to me."
Self-love does not arrive suddenly. A person who has spent a lifetime of self-dislike has a lot of work to do. By acknowledging self-dislike, such a person begins the long process of changing his or her attitude, and, little by little, the knowledge of one's own excellence appears.
Kindness is doing something nice for someone or saying something nice to someone. When you are kind to yourself, you compliment yourself and look for justifications for being proud. Implicit in doing so are the words, "I remind myself that I am wonderful and am at the center of existence. I support myself in my values. I admire my resources. I am interested in myself. I allow myself to be awkward, dull, or unattractive without judgment or criticism. I see myself within the processes of life. I allow myself my eccentricity and peculiarity. I am unique and different. I honor this uniqueness and difference. I defend myself against the rejection of other people. I am my own judge. I tell myself, 'Other people might think I'm not equal, but I assert that I am equal, just the way that life has provided for me to be.'"
With a broad appreciation of self-compassion, you stand to put abiding fear, shame, hostility, and guiltiness in their place.
A disarming quality of fear, shame, hostility, and guiltiness is that they are based on a truth. It is disarming, because, knowing that there is truth behind them, you tend to feel powerless to oppose them. After all, you reason, your body did indeed suffer a terrible attack, you were weak, people intruded on you, and you harmed innocent people. At one time you had good reason to feel fearful, ashamed, hostile, and guilty. Present reminders, however, of your failures, indiscretions, mistakes, weaknesses, and wrongs are hurtful attacks based on the delusion that time has not passed, that you are continuing to fail, be indiscreet, make mistakes, show weakness, and do wrong. It is the delusion that the "I" that you were is the "I" that you are now. Such present reminders are always mean, lacking in compassion.
Self-compassion stands up for your being more than your negative thoughts. It sees life as a creative process with each moment bringing something new. Unhampered by inappropriate thoughts from the past, you meet each new moment with thoughts appropriate to the moment. Asserting self-compassion is always in order. It enlarges your vision beyond the limitations that abiding fear, shame, hostility, and guiltiness place on you. You can say the words, "I assert compassion towards you." By so doing you get on the side of compassion and move off the side of being victim of self-shaming and self-blaming. You assert a value in opposition to the meanness of your attack on yourself.
Seeking compassion is saying the word "compassion" or "there is a place where compassion is" and also thinking about what the word means. You are frail and imperfect, and you are still equal. Self-compassion is the recognition that you are equal, regardless of who you are or have been, what you are doing or have done, or what you have or have had, just so long as you are not harming yourself or others.
Compassion sees behavior as being caused. No person behaves without a past. You are irrational much of the time, behaving in ways determined by past experiences. Compassion recognizes this, not blaming you for your irrational behavior. Compassionate, a person takes this attitude: "I recognize that painful emotions have causes. I am subject to causation. I am in Nature/life, not apart from it. I accept reality." Compassionate, a person takes this attitude: "I recognize that fear, shame, hostility, and guiltiness are some of the processes of life. I acknowledge that they have a place in my being. I face them without turning away from them." Compassion makes room for unwelcome knowledge.
Compassion repudiates name-calling, which gets a person to thinking he or she is simply a name. Compassion is the antidote to name-calling. It asserts the largeness of a person's humanity.
Compassion is sweetness of mind, in contrast to the bitterness of abiding fear, shame, hostility, and guiltiness. A person can deliberately think about the sweetness of compassion, taking this attitude: "I believe in sweetness of mind for myself. I turn down bitterness. I get on the side of sweetness and off the side of bitterness."
Compassion includes, whereas bitterness excludes. It says, "I am fully worthy of my attention and caring. I draw myself into my friendship. I am not inferior, to be repudiated, but, rather, equal, to be accepted."
Compassion is available for use at any moment.
A person whose mind has been dominated by bad feelings can overcome this domination, but he or she can not be without the knowledge of the domination. It is a fact of his or her past. A person might wish to be good natured naturally, like a person who never suffered from bad nature, but this can not be. Being good natured by virtue of vigilance can not be the same as being good natured naturally. Although you might prefer to be good natured naturally, you should not undervalue being good natured by virtue of vigilance. It is a wonderful achievement to triumph over one's bad nature. It is an achievement of compassion.
In the same way that self-compassion opposes shame, self-forgiveness opposes guiltiness. Both occur only in the mind. Just as shame implies lack of compassion, guiltiness implies lack of forgiveness. If you are troubled by shame, you can seek its antidote, compassion, by saying, "self-compassion." Similarly, if you are troubled by guiltiness, you can seek its antidote, self-forgiveness. Both self-compassion and self-forgiveness are a matter of emphasis, an emphasis of a value or a perception that draws toward or includes instead of repelling or excluding. Nothing is overturned or destroyed. Rather, everything is as it was before, except for the way that things are looked at.
Compassion and forgiveness do not take well to being forced. Once the idea of compassion is acknowledged, it takes effect. Once the idea of forgiveness is recognized, it, too, takes effect. Self-compassion says, "I don't have to justify myself. I am already justified by the magnificence of being human." Self-forgiveness says, "I don't have to forgive myself. Whether I was right, justified, and not guilty, on the one hand, or wrong, not justified, and guilty, on the other hand, it doesn't matter. Either way, what happened can't be changed. The past is irreversible. Outside of the mind, only the facts remain. My only option is to move on, into the present." As Shakespeare wrote, "No more be grieved at that which thou has done:/Roses have thorns and silver fountains, mud;/Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,/And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud."
The question arises, shouldn't you be punished for the harm that you did. Shouldn't you pay your debt to society. My answer is, if compensation or restitution can be made, certainly you should give compensation or make restitution If it is possible (and right) to apologize or make amends, certainly you should apologize or make amends. If you are punished, you are more wary of repeating an offense. However, punishment is a dangerous remedy - it creates its own waves of fear and hatred.
When you are forgiving, you are friendly despite what the other person has done. You reestablish a friendly relationship. You take the other person back into your society. Forgiveness maintains the cohesiveness of the friendship or the tribe. You allow some mistake or wrongdoing in the past to be relegated to the past - you acknowledge that the past is irreversible, and you start afresh. The exile is brought back. You recognize that life can not be creative in the present when it is shackled to past mistakes and wrongdoing. Forgiveness clears away blame, which is its opposite.
Forgiveness of self shares with forgiveness of others the elements of excusing, accepting, allowing, and reassuring. It clears away self-blaming so that you can be friendly toward yourself. Whereas self-blaming causes you to feel victimized and inferior, self-forgiveness raises you up to being an equal. Strength and success again become possibilities.
When left unopposed, self-blaming seems to take over a person's whole consciousness, elbowing out possible feelings of good nature. The thought of "I am at fault" acts as a funnel through which related memories are poured. The mind is active remembering instances of being at fault. There seems to be little room for self-forgiveness. Saying the word "self-forgiveness" in one's mind creates a chink through which new possibilities can enter. The amazing variety of life can be yours again, not as you wish it were but as it really is. You can see things as yours, touch things as yours, hear things as yours, taste things as yours, and smell things as yours. Things exist with you and for you. You are in touch with the present. By persistently giving consideration to self-forgiveness, you make room for it and push back the tide of self-blaming. You are more than your self-blaming.
In the background of this direction of one's attention is this attitude: "I forgive myself. I allow what has happened to have happened. I accept the reality of having done something wrong. Life is imperfect, and I am in Nature/life, not apart from it. I match the wrongdoing to the time when it occurred. I did wrong, but I am not now doing wrong. By involving myself with past mistakes and wrongs, I am corrupting the present, which is innocent. I relegate to the past those things that were. I live in the present.
"I accept the reality that life is full of mistakes and wrongdoing, which are in the nature of life itself. A person can not be a human being without mistakes and wrongdoing. Everyone is a damn fool and a stupid jerk from time to time. I accede to the reality of the imperfection of life itself.
"I turn toward instead of away from my self-blaming and guiltiness. I face them. I reestablish a friendly relationship with all parts of my mind, including my self-shamer and self-blamer. I see them not as flooding me but as just one aspect of someone very complex.
"I abandon all responsibility for my past mistakes. I might have been guilty of wrongdoing, but I cannot change the facts. The burden of guiltiness ignores the passage of time. I throw off being now responsible."
A large portion of hatred in one's life seems to make self-forgiveness more difficult to find, as if hatred had hardened the heart and made comforting and reassuring less accessible. People who have experienced strong and enduring feelings of hatred can benefit by recognizing that hatred causes this problem of making self-forgiveness more difficult to find. However, even with this problem, self-forgiveness can still be sought and found, even if the seeking and finding take longer and require more effort.
If a person has broken something, he or she can consider excusing himself or herself. Accidents are in the nature of life. It is only human for one's attention to lapse occasionally. It is unfair to expect perfection. In the background is an attitude of understanding the inevitability of imperfection: "Accidents occur to everyone. Everyone breaks things occasionally. I am equal despite what I did. I accept the reality that life is full of accidents."
Similarly, if a person has behaved irrationally, he or she can consider excusing himself or herself. Everyone behaves irrationally much of the time, despite his or her efforts. For example, people avoid people who resemble disliked people in their past, they are attracted to people who resemble loved ones, they forget appointments they would rather not keep, they take foolish chances, and they buy things they soon regret having bought. Other people are quick to point out irrational behavior, calling the person silly, stupid, and foolish. If one blames oneself for one's irrational behavior, self-blame takes over consciousness, and the person can become dominated by it, with one's whole consciousness caught up in self-blaming, making it difficult for self-liking to take a foothold. However, by saying the words, "You are not silly, stupid, or foolish. I like you. I am compassionate toward you. I forgive you," you begin to break through the domination.
Although an apology is not necessary for forgiveness, forgiveness comes more easily when there is an apology. Saying "I'm sorry" is saying, ""I have changed, I see things differently, I wouldn't do that again." You can more easily establish friendliness with someone who is sorry, because the threat of a repetition of the wrong is reduced. In the absence of an apology, overlooking the wrong requires the effort of reminding oneself that the person is much more than the wrong he or she has committed. Consequently, with yourself, if you are sorry, you can say, "I wouldn't do that again," along with "There is a place where forgiveness is" and "I am sorry," addressing the image of your victim in the mind.
Many people feel guiltiness for wrongs against their children. It is easy for an adult, whose power is strong, to mistreat a child, whose power is weak, and the consequences can be terrible.
Life can be honored as it is. To dwell on past failings is to turn away from present concerns. Implicit in living in the present is this attitude: "I reach out to my present life, in all its amazing richness. I repudiate dwelling on the past and give attention to present life. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings of the present prove the triviality of my regrets, which are now just traces in my mind."
"I forgive the self-blamer in me. It has become overblown, but I do not run from it. I deal with it. I allow its existence as part of reality."
As one continues to deal with the self-blamer, it comes to take its rightful place in one's mind, evaluating and suggesting but not continually hurting one's feelings. One learns to accept that he or she has a self-critic and that it doesn't have to be a monster.
Forgiveness is the heart of spirituality, which is impartial (non-condemnatory, non-judgmental) toward oneself and toward others.
Being wrong and making mistakes are an everyday matter. It is in the nature of everyone to be wrong and to make mistakes. As an exercise, I wrote down my mistakes and being in the wrong as they occurred today. Here are ones that I noticed:
I bought spaghetti when I already had enough in the cupboard.and the day is still young!
I sprayed too much spot remover on a spot on the carpet.
I forgot to put my pen back in its place.
I misplaced my flashlight.
I forgot to button my pants back pocket (holding my wallet).
I left my laundry in the washer too long.
I scuffed the fringe on the living room carpet.
Sometimes, the first thing to do when you recognize that you are attacking yourself is to say, "Enough." The suddenness of addressing the meanness takes it by surprise, and it deflates. You can also say, addressing the source of the attack, "Who are you, and what is your purpose?" repeatedly.
People who subsequently show mercy towards others are often the ones previously inflicting the pain. They then take pity on their victim and relent. An overlord having a vassal punished says, "Enough." Similarly, when you are inflicting pain on yourself, you can take pity on yourself and relent.
When you recognize that you are calling yourself names, criticizing, and resurrecting painful memories, you can deliberately say, "Enough. I show you mercy. I stop inflicting pain on you." In this way you take the position that it is not all right to inflict pain. You take a position against your own meanness. You object to your own self-harrassment.
After asking the key question, "What am I feeling?" and repeatedly naming the feeling, you can say, "Enough. I show you mercy." These are the words of self-mercy: "You are a unique and wonderful human being. You have a right to your individuality. I repudiate social conventions that confine you to uncomfortable conformity. I repudiate shaming and blaming. You are equal." Negative thoughts are remarkably responsive to recognition and mercy. They do back down.
Goodwill towards others
It is hard to have goodwill towards awful people. When they insult or injure us, we naturally take offense. However, we pay a price for the residue of anger, shame, and frustration. They intrude upon our peace of mind.
It would be nice if we could avoid awful people altogether, but there are so many of them, and they are so important, that we can't do that. The best that we can do is to try to avoid the ones that we can and, for the rest, to overcome our anger, shame, and frustration.
Overcoming takes conscious effort. It also takes practice. Deliberately, we can say to ourselves (about every other person and all people), "I wish you well. I want you to be happy."
This is certainly an innocent wish. It doesn't do them any harm, and it does you good. You surmount your anger, shame, and frustration and see the larger view.
It is egotism - self-importance, defensiveness about one's self-definition - that causes us to take insults personally. Egotism is a narrowing of a person's view of himself or herself, ignoring the magnificence of being a human being as such, with an evolutionary history and amazing features of mind and body. It is making the individual person, the self, more significant than the significance of being a human being. With a larger view, insults don't just hit oneself, they hit this portion of humanity.
Knowing that we are totally created makes it possible to rise above personal injuries and move beyond anger, shame, and frustration. In the words of Lao-Tse, "When I let go of who I am, I become who I might be."
Deliberate practicing of goodwill toward others, those who are good and those who are bad, is explained in Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana. His term for goodwill is Universal Loving Kindness:Gunaratana Chapter 9