Sunday, January 11, 2015

They Aren't Half Bad: On Not Maligning Others

Been a while, I know, but between vacation and then getting sick... Regardless, the point of this blog is that I keep at it, not that I meet any sort of schedule. And that's what I'm doing.

Onto the next teaching, though:
Don't malign others.
An alternate translation, from, is "Don't lash out." A bit more direct than the translation on the cards I've been using for this project. Further, the explanatory paragraph is pretty helpful for this one:
"Giving expression to your anger by lashing out at people who offend or insult you only reinforces anger in you. Do taking and sending with the anger itself."
If you've forgotten, taking and sending is a central part of the practice of lojong. And it is a solid suggestion for how not to malign and lash out, but I still wanted to consult the Judy Lief piece on this teaching. I'm so glad I did.

Lief started out with a wallop:
"When we malign someone, our intention is to cause harm. Our words are spiteful and ill-spirited. There is a saying that 'sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.' But in fact words do have power and they certainly can hurt."
I couldn't help thinking of Waldorf and Statler. For the most part, they do nothing *but* malign. One of my favorite of their bits is when Waldorf says, "They aren't half bad," and Statler responds, "Nope, they're all bad!" Whether you're maligning to hurt or maligning for a joke, it's still going to do more harm to you than anything else. 

Turning back to what Lief has to say, 
"If we need to malign others to make us feel good about ourselves by comparison, we will never feel all that great. And at the other extreme, when we encounter people who are exceptional, that approach will make us feel pathetic in comparison. According to this slogan we should stop that whole destructive approach."
Comparison is, after all, the thief of happiness. That's why Lief's suggestion for working with this teaching, "Pay attention to your speech and to how you talk about and to other people.  What is the difference between speaking critically and using speech to harm or to destroy?" resonates particularly strongly - even more strongly than the idea of taking and sending when I would normally criticize and malign.

So that's what I'll be doing. Until next time, namaste and all that.