Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spiritual correctness and permission to get angry

I've found myself in two awkward positions over the last couple of days. One, I'm spending a week with 6 other women, writers and artists, at a creative retreat. Sounds great, doesn't it? Well, one of the women is annoying the hell out of me. I've known her a while, avoided her, and hoped for the best when I learned she was going to be here. But I just don't like her. I know what she triggers me and mirrors in me, in all that pop psychology stuff. I know she's doing the best she can. But the best she can do strikes me as mean and petty and judgemental, and that makes me want to be those things too. I don't want to be around her. I don't want to pray for her or forgive her or any of that crap at the moment.

The second incidence involves technology. Far too often for my comfort, I receive group mailings where all the addresses are highly visible. In other words, the sender did not use the anonymous BCC recipient line. I think by now everyone should know that's how email addresses became spam-sending addresses. I know it's why this morning in my junk mail, my email address was selling photos of hot underage girls and my clients might well be receiving those emails from my address, much to my chagrin.

I spoke my mind about this when I got the most recent of these emails from a volunteer group that is easily the most consistent offender of my correspondents. I had already asked the sender, perhaps twice over the last year, to remove me from her list. To no avail. Or maybe this was another list she picked up. I can't know.

An hour later, the volunteer group organizer's (not the message sender) sent a long email encouraging people to use the BCC line, because it was important to "some" people, and reminding all of us to be compassionate and generous and understand that people make mistakes and were doing the best they could. This further pissed me off. I felt taken to task in front of the group, chastised for my lack of spiritual correctness.

When is it okay to be angry with someone? When is it okay to express that anger with that someone? When is it okay to acknowledge that sometimes people aren't doing the best they can, that they're lazy or inconsiderate or, yes, angry? 

I live mostly in Buddhist and 12-step circles and I've been noticing that it's not okay to find people's behavior unacceptable. That some kind of forgiveness is always needed, some kind of acknowledgement that we have to just live with the way things are. I think that may well be responsible for some of the huge mess we are in.

I don't think most of us do the best we can on most days. I think we do what we can or what we're willing to do, but not the best. And that includes me. And I'm not always sure what the best thing to do is. So I sit back and let the woman run roughshod over the energy here and I speak my mind about what is angering me. And that maybe that's being compassionate with myself.

If anybody has a good reference for a teaching on spiritual correctness, I'd love to have it. Thanks for listening.


Jan Shannon said...

Jill, you are so courageous. I love the rawness of this post.

And as for spiritual correctness, I think that is between you and your higher power. Prescribing to someone else what is correct is another way we get the world in a mess.

LC said...

In Christian nomenclature, being petty, judgmental and careless with someone's personal information is "sin." Christian's are called on to love the person but not the sin. And there is a difference between discernment and being judgmental. Discernment yes. Doormat NO! Go to the person privately rather than venting to anyone else. Let that person know that your spirit is hurt by the particular behavior. One other thing. When I have been in relationships or in contact with someone who hurts me deeply . . . or even annoys me and I have to maintain that relationship or contact, I learned to grit my teeth and utter a silent prayer to "Bless so and and so for the good that is in them and the good you can work through them." I did not have to BELIEVE there was any good in them; I just had to let the whole thing go, for that moment, to the higher power. In my case that is God the Creator. Of course, for that deep hurt, I had to say that over and over every time the anger and resentment boiled up out of my stomach. And I realized much later that I was changed! I had wanted the other person to change, and eventually he did, but that is not guaranteed. The peace, joy and brighter days were worth the change! One of the authors that started me on this journey was Catherine Ponder at http://catherineponder.wwwhubs.com/. Not the traditional Christian perspective but truth is truth. All the best on your journey. Forgive the verbosity!