No matter how badly someone treats you, never drop down to their level. Remain calm, stay strong and walk away.
How adept are you at holding your temper?
I have moments where I am astounded at what I can absorb and keep my mouth shut. And then, as pious and holier than thou as I feel, a person does something insanely stupid on the freeway and my angry inner child is instantly communicating with them! (Not proud of this at all!)
Interestingly, the moral lesson of becoming a black belt is learning how much you could do under duress but more importantly, never showing it. Learn to absorb and walk away.
Over the course of time, we are all subject to an onslaught of arrogance, ignorance, and unfounded hatred that is revealed to us under the most uncomfortable circumstances. Most of the time, it is neither sought, nor provoked, and it arrives out of nowhere, for us to weather without any warning whatsoever.
We have countless options at those moments. Depending upon who has done the provoking, we are forced to make a snap decision and react appropriately. In karate, our motto was Simple, Correct, Direct and Appropriate. In life, we must have what we call our “flinch” in karate. This is our go to move that we have consciously mastered over time, so that in a moment of attack, we are certain to hold our presence of mind and leverage this upon instant provocation.
Your attack may come from a stranger, or a co-worker, friend, spouse, child, relative, employer, teacher or other. When the verbal attack arises, you must find that instant shelter that precludes an instantaneous reaction. You must know how to shut your mouth, regardless of every last response that is screaming inside your brain. This is very high level work. In this scenario, the ability to remain calm, stay strong and walk away is the work of a true master.
When antagonized, we wish to fight back. We wish to injure the other party on par (or worse) than they have done to us. That is a natural reaction. Our instant sense of injury seeks vengeance. Our inner being wants to show the other party what that feels like.
But the reality is that in doing so, we are only going to find ourselves down in the gutter with them. Whatever we might retort will feel good for the short minute, and within a small segment of time, that response will have migrated from the column of one up to one down. Not that there is actually a score being kept, but the reality is that we feel a sense of combat in responding, but when we take time after the experience and reflect, we realize that we have just dropped down to a level of existence that was not only unnecessary, but truly uncalled for. We gained nothing from having done so. Literally nothing. The other party does not respect us more. We are not superior to them for having done so. It is a lose/lose.
Conversely, when you remain nonplussed at another’s affront to your sense of self, you cause the most interesting of reactions. To understand this, you must understand the psyche of why that person was willing to say those things. I could fill pages with the reasons why, and all of the complicated motivations. But regardless of the reasons why, the person is saying these things to make you feel bad and to hurt you. They do this because they are waiting to see how badly they hurt you. Your reaction confirms that they succeeded.
Your lack of reaction creates exactly the opposite. When you remain in complete control (including facial expressions and all nonverbal body language) you throw them completely off their game. They are counting on your reaction. They crave it at that moment. They want to hurt you. If you can be mature and strong enough to remain unaltered by their attack, it is daunting to them. They will come back with worse. Trying harder to break through your force field. You must remain in complete control. See them for the angry, petulant, ignorant being that they are at that moment and just suck it up. Know in your deepest of hearts that by depriving them of their desired response, you are the one who is complete control. And leave as soon as you may. Don’t stick around for more abuse. Just leave.
When I find myself in these kinds of problems, I know that my flinch must be silence. I feel deep rage within, and keeping quiet is very difficult. So in that gap, I recognize how low level vibrational frequency that human being is operating on, and make it a point to see them for the weak person that they have revealed themselves to be. I instantly gag my inner child who is more than ready to reduce me down to their level and think to myself, “are you finished?” If it is an instant burst from another party, perhaps my not reacting will give them time to realize that they dropped to a level that I will not meet them on. In those circumstances, perhaps the discussion will improve from there and a win/win may still be attainable. If the attack from their side continues, then it is time to just walk away. Allow the other party to cool down, or in some cases, never encounter them again.
In these moments, you do not feel like you have prevailed. We are conditioned to believe that leaving is
“running away.” But this is far from the truth. Sometimes walking away without reaction is the huge win. You do not get to see it. You do not get a sense of triumph. You do not get to see the merciless pain you put that miserable son of a bitch through.
You only get to know that you have left them bewildered. They wanted desperately to get your reaction. To feed off of it. To see you come down to their level so they can hurt you in numerous ways.
And you robbed them of their joy and left their attack unanswered.
This is very high level work. It is neither easy, nor pleasant, nor joyous. But if you can find this discipline in your being, you rise to levels you have yet to experience and you remain (by far) the better person.
It is one thing to talk the talk and far more difficult to walk the walk. The next time you feel affronted by another, try your hardest to not react at all. There is always time at a later moment to react if a reaction is truly necessary. But in the moment, find the courage to just go straight-faced and stand tall.
You will be surprised as you reflect upon the moment under calmer circumstances how much better you feel for not having reacted at all.