Last week I was working at my day-job, a gem and mineral store, when a red-haired man walked up to the area outside our door. He was pacing back and forth on the phone, clearly talking to a “buddy”.
“The women back home man, are so ugly but not here. Everywhere I look there’s a gorgeous woman” he said.
Now, people love to use the space outside the store to make personal phone calls, and they never realize that the sound travels directly into the store. So I hear a lot of things I don’t necessarily want to, and this was one of them.
“I don’t know man, I’m not really hungry I was just lookin’ to get a margarita–why don’t you come meet me here” the man said and then got off the phone.
Naturally, while this man waited for his friend he wandered into the store to look around. He asked me about a fossil and when I stepped from behind the counter he did a quick up-down with his eyes–in that very sloppy way that gross men do, where you can tell by their expression that they really think you don’t see it. I was not amused.
I donned my fakest smile (which is really more of a frown from the nose up) as he went on to tell me about the years of experience he had in mysticism and meditation-how I should really consider getting involved in a Rosicrucian temple-how he was going to a meditation there later that day.
However, as offensive as this exchange was to me, it showed me some important things. First, my reaction to this guy showed me exactly where I am on my spiritual path, which was humbling to see. I believe that I am here to do two things in this life: to be here now, and to love all beings. However, I did not have love for this man, which means I have a lot of work to do. I was completely unable to look past his ego-the maragarita drinking, meditating, male chauvinist- and see the place in him that is also in me, that is in all of us.
That doesn’t mean that I should have been nice to this man, or even that I should like him. It doesn’t mean that I should act as though his behavior is appropriate. But I should love him. Anyone who has ever done me wrong has done it only because they lacked compassion. If I can’t respond with compassion, how do I expect anything to change? It is hardest for me to show compassion to those who need it the most. But I believe that’s an important part of my job here in this life.
The second thing I learned from this person was that I should do my best never to boast about how wonderful my spiritual practice is. Because most likely, whoever I’m boasting to will notice just how far I fall short (because we all do) and think–yikes I’m never going near that stuff. This is a big reason why religion is such a turn off to most people.
The best thing I can do for people who lack compassion is work on myself. Because I also lack compassion and if I can cultivate loving kindness, then I can give it out for others to use.