Lojong Practice Journal: Be grateful to everyone
The 59 slogans through a social justice lens
“Be grateful to everyone” is a slogan I come to when I’m feeling particularly challenged or upset with something someone has done. Another way I think of this slogan is: Remember, everyone can have something to teach you.
The example I most commonly use for this is with my past intimate relationships. I was in two longer-term relationships before meeting my wife. Both of those past relationships were unhealthy and toxic in various ways.
In the first, we were immature, young and playing out how we thought things ‘should’ be in a relationship. At that time, I put my happiness on my ability to make others happy. Basically, I tried to ‘fix’ people. My partner was dissatisfied with their life but unwilling to do anything to change it. We were co-dependent, and it bred a lot of resentment.
Eventually, they fell in love with someone else and the relationship ended. I was single for just about a year when I met my next partner. This second long-term relationship was mentally and emotionally abusive. My partner had an incredibly low tolerance for any kind of discomfort and held others accountable for their own sense of ease in the world. They had impossible to meet expectations, and I quickly found myself in the cycle of trying to keep the peace between inevitable blow-outs.
After each relationship, I did a lot of work on understanding the role I played and the role they played, and the dynamic that created.
Both relationships taught me a lot about the difference between wishing for someone to be happy and not standing in the way of that, versus feeling responsible for another person’s happiness, especially at the detriment of my own. I was able to take personal responsibility for my bad habits and set the intention to change them, while still seeing how each of these people were accountable for the part they played too.
Neither person has ever apologised for the harm they caused me, but I’ve been able to cultivate great compassion for them both, even forgiveness, which is not to say I absolve them of their wrong-doing. Rather, I see that they, just like me, are messy, changeable human beings.
I also recognise that it sucks to carry around resentment. I don’t like the weight of it, and so I would rather let it go, and the way to do that is to fully embrace them as they are. There’s a tenderness in that embracing, because so much of it is about stepping outside my sense of self-righteousness and viewing things from their side. I can recognise that my first partner was very likely struggling with depression, and that’s something I know full well makes it nearly impossible for us to live as we imagine we should be. I can also recognise that my second partner alienated themselves with their behaviour — I watched them drive away friends and family, cutting them out for the most minor of transgressions — further minimizing their tolerance for discomfort, and also denying themselves relationships with some pretty amazing people.
When I view their actions this way, instead of being ‘awful’ people, they are just human, like me. Just like me, they want to feel content and at ease. And just like me, they don’t always make the most skillfull choices to connect with contentment or happiness.
And still further, thanks to both of those relationships, I was able to recognise the exact qualities of a healthy relationship with the person to whom I am now married. If not for the heartache of one and trauma of the other, I wouldn’t have been compatible with or receptive to the amazing supportive qualities of my wife. If I had chosen to carry around animosity or resentment, or let bitterness lead my choices, I might not have even been receptive to a new relationship at all.
There is so much I have to be grateful for because of these two individuals who I might otherwise entirely write off or only think of with disdain and anger. So much of what I have learned from having them in my life started with this slogan. We learn and grow through relating with others. It is through relating to others that we improve how we communicate, understand where our boundaries are, and cultivate compassion, equanimity and love.
Originally published on Medium
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