To Not Behave As A Victim

“My friends, the enemy” ~ Dalai Lama referring to Chinese who occupy & victimize his homeland, Tibet

Thich Nhat Hanh & us, Hanoi 2007

Thich Nhat Hanh & us, Hanoi 2007

Last year I asked Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn a question from my heart. The inquiry stems from a mindfulness training for cultivating communication and community. This training’s last line states, “We will not behave as a victim but be active in finding ways to reconcile and resolve all conflicts however small.” My question was “what actions are examples of not behaving as a victim, even though I, and my Jewish & Native American ancestors have been victimized?”

After a brief pause the teacher said that I should see the suffering in those who have victimized. With this insight compassion towards them grows. Gradually they become less enemy and victimizer, and more understood. Then, instead of turning or running away I will want to stay and help. Compassion goes together with happiness. Energy of compassion can heal both mind and body; something science is increasingly affirming. When we are peaceful and happy we have more energy. And with the extra energy from compassion and happiness I can further heal myself and stay to help others suffer less. And with experience, helping others, even those I feel victimized by, will become more second nature, replacing urges to run away or cause them to suffer. Such wise advice to an U.S. military veteran from a Vietnamese monk who was a victim of the American war, where nearly 6 million of his people died. Then he was exiled from his country by its communist govt, called a CIA agent.

Dalai Lama & Thich Nhat Hanh 2007

Dalai Lama & Thich Nhat Hanh 2007 ~Bhuvan Lall

Over the past months I’ve done my best to stay present for others despite, at times, having desires to turn away. I recognize the energy of fear inside. Comforting it with conscious breathing. Breathing in, I recognize feelings of fear. Breathing out, I comfort and ease uncomfortable feelings in body and heart. Putting a smile on my face and experiencing a calm radiating from my lips, down throughout my body. Without this intention of maintaining peace inside and offering it out to others, it would be easy to become a victim of my own doing; again regretting words and actions taken in anger. Ancestors of mine suffered greatly, and then transmitted mountains & centuries of pain into me. Countless reasons to hate. I perceive having been hurt intentionally or accidentally by family members, young people, old people, women, men, straight, gay, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Caucasian, Black, Asian, Native American…

Oh, to keep heart open to those whom I meet, whether neighbor or stranger, recognizing their humanity, their suffering and wish for safety, satisfaction and connection. With heart open and mind calm I see that others are not separate from me. We miraculously co-exist at this cross-roads of space and time while humans still inhabit the blue, green earth. Some have so many fortunate conditions supporting them, others have so few. Such brief insights experienced give me hope that it’s possible to transcend fear, letting go, even if briefly, of the small sense of self. It feels nourishing and energizing to feed compassion, happiness and joy, rather than the 3 poisons of greed, hatred and delusion. I’m grateful to practice ways of overcoming the normal, almost expected, hateful, vengeful behaviors because I, and my people, are victims. May I shock and awe others, known and unknown, with my compassionate, loving presence and actions. May we all find gentle balance between dark and light energies. I will continue working for justice in my thoughts, words and actions with a light heart filled with gratitude for this precious, short sweet gift of life.

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66 thoughts on “To Not Behave As A Victim

  1. Jeff Nguyen

    Wise words from Thich Nhat Hahn. The etymology of compassion is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.” Compassion moves beyond mere empathy as it gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering.

    Reply
  2. KM Huber

    I, too, needed to read this today so thank you. For me, it is such a timely reminder to “see suffering in those who victimize.” Once again, someone holds up a mirror for me. Much appreciated.
    Karen

    Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      on paper it seems to make sense, Karen
      but it’s challenging when most around us
      do the opposite.
      wishing you little, but great success 🙂

      Reply
  3. Val Boyko

    Thank you for sharing this today. I also feel a need to share my belief here that our cells carry messages from previous lives and the universe. There is an intelligence within us at a cellular level that we cannot fathom, but we can feel it in a fear that isn’t logical and judgments that make no sense, even when we truly believe in the goodness of others. Old hurts live on until the one that feels them last is able to forgive and end the universal cycle. This is important work. 🙂

    Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      thanks for kindly offering this insight,Val!
      the energy does seem to permiate mine and other’s cells.
      with this realization there is hope
      of transformation 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hunt FOR Truth

    put the hurt on, sort it out, and its been me hurting myself over someone hurting themselves

    These circle recall the saying: what goes around come around…or… we attract what we are

    Blessings.
    ~ Eric

    Reply
  5. Genie

    Compassion for all sentient beings, in the mind and heart;
    …Caution when walking, carry a stick.

    To be Compassionate and to make oneself vulnerable. are two different things.

    Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      thanks for the kind reminder, Genie!
      when in hostile environments
      may we walk peacefully
      while carrying a stick with compassion.
      i have found it necessary to examine my thought or feeling of vulnerability
      which arises in any given moment, even if the sky is blue, coast is clear
      and let go of fear and anger when i’m only threatened in my mind.
      but i understand about being in locations where it is not safe; certainly not comfortable.
      i hope you are feeling safe most of the time, my friend 🙂

      Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      thanks for your kind words, Thomas.
      what a nice gesture for the classroom!
      there are some colorful flags here in my house, also 🙂

      Reply
  6. JusticeLivesNot

    Empathy = understanding the suffering of others.
    Compassion = action taken to alleviate the suffering of others.
    Thich Nhat Hanh is a better man than I, for sure. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      thanks for your kind, insightful words, my justice friend.
      these teaching are ideals
      offering direction towards liberation.
      while we may not get liberated
      i feel better trying, than not.
      may all experience empathy, if not compassion
      of another, at some time 🙂

      Reply
  7. Crinia

    “When we are peaceful and happy we have more energy. And with the extra energy from compassion and happiness I can further heal myself and stay to help others suffer less”. This looks like a path worth pursuing.

    Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      thank you for this kind reflection, Crinia!
      yes, worth pursuing.
      it’s helpful to practice
      first by offering
      compassion and a gentle presence
      to our own hearts.
      with some success we can incrementally
      extend out to others. good luck 🙂

      Reply
  8. Amy Pinkrose

    I have tears in my eyes. This post spoke volumes to me. My husband is a Vietnam Vet and I KNOW what happens to the human soul being exposed to war. My role in his life is to show him not to fear Love and Peace. I just follow this blog, for your words are so filled with Love, Compassion and Truth. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Love, Amy

    Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      you appear to me, Amy
      as a kind Bodhisattva.
      in this post is an image of Thich Nhat Hanh with monastics and others who accompanied and supported his return to Vietnam back in 2007. Over 3 months I attended 3 overwhelming 3 day ceremonies to heal the wounds of war. To find forgiveness and let the hungry ghosts be remembered and satisfied. To heal the past by expressing regrets and taking affirming actions in the present. Feeding hungry and sick children now, and forgiving ourselves for killing the children back then. living with joy and happiness despite the wounds.

      Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle
      by Thich Nhat Hanh

      Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation.

      If Veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war.

      And they can teach us how to make peace with ourselves and each other, so we never have to use violence to resolve conflicts again.

      When you touch fire and your hand gets burned, it is not the responsibility of the hand alone.

      It is the responsibility of the whole person.

      The hand did not touch fire by itself.

      It was commanded to do so by the brain, and the whole body got hurt at the same time.

      If the body blames the hand, that is not just.

      The hand acted because the body ordered it to do so.

      When there is good communication between the hand and the rest of the body, both the hand and the body feel better.

      If the body says, “You must bear the burden of your actions by yourself; I cannot forgive what you have done,”

      That is lack of understanding.

      Thich Nhat Hanh from: “True Love”

      Reply
      1. Amy Pinkrose

        I have some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books. I don’t believe “True Love” is one of them, but I will be adding that to my library. As for all you said here, I am too touched to even reply. I am going to have my husband read this, and for that Gift, I am very honored you have given this to me. He still to this day fights Love, and still to this day, sees an enemy where there is none. We have been married all of 30 years, and some days, to walk in Compasssion, is very difficult indeed. Yet, I do. I am so glad I am following you. I will show my husband your site, and with prayerful attitude, he will start reading your blessed words. At times I am too “close” and hence, he shuts down.
        I will be returning to your words today to read again and again. You are like a fresh country spring to me, with waters clear and everflowing. Thank you! In humbleness and in Love, Amy

      2. smilecalm Post author

        i’m happy to have something to offer, Amy. i know many US veterans who have healed and now feel much lighter and whole having studied and practiced teachings from Thich Nhat Hanh (often he is referred to as Thay, meaning beloved teacher in Vietnamese). His book “creating true peace” accounts his work to bring peace to himself and the world during and after war. This and other books may be in a local library. Reading is a most helpful first step to realize that healing and happiness are possible. Many find it useful to be with others who study and practice mindful living. You may consider attending a retreat or joining a sangha (support group) near you. Here’s a directory http://www.mindfulnessbell.org/directory/index.cgi . Should you have a question I’d be happy to help you find an answer. may you be well with each mindful breath, david

      3. Amy Pinkrose

        Thank you, David. Bless you! I will check this site out.

        I leave out books all over this house with the intention of perhaps one of them catching my husband’s eye. Right now, in fact, I have “Peace Is Every Step” on the kitchen table, put out for him to see while he ate his breakfast. As usual, no response. I cannot force “a horse to a water trough” and this thought is the same for my husband. I do the reading, and when I am out in Nature with my camera, alone, this is where I renew. I do not have the freedom to go on any retreats because I take care of special needs cats, some who need who medications every day. My husband continually refuses to learn how to do this. And I know why. He is afraid if I am able to leave for a few days, his security goes with me. Very tough situation with this man, yet my heart will not let me give up. Many a sacrifice I have made in my own personal life, yet, I will not complain, nor will I feel sad. I choose a happy heart.

        And yes, deep breathing is essential. I learned this in Yoga. I also practice mindful living every moment. Blessings, Amy

      4. smilecalm Post author

        For now
        his practice is through your aspiration to be present and offer compassionate words and actions. he will experience deep listening, in order to heal and feel heard, he will experience loving words to touch the heart. darling, i am here for you. i know you are there for me and that makes me very happy. wishing you moment by moment success in experiencing the conditions of happiness available.

      5. Amy Pinkrose

        Yet this is the thing. I do walk alone most of the time, but Spirit is always with me. I don’t feel alone. I really do have a happy heart. Besides, all I am doing with photography right now is keeping me so busy it makes my head spin. I don’t have time to feel alone. Mother Nature LOVES me and speaks to me, allowing me the honor of entrance to Her world. This is what I photograph. It is pure magic. 🙂

      6. smilecalm Post author

        understood!
        when loneliness arises in me
        it’s a bell of mindfulness
        to get out and be with others
        even if they’re all strangers 🙂

  9. ♡eM

    May I endeavor to shock and awe others as well, having only compassion for the suffering of us all. Your posts are prayers appreciated by this one who wonders, Smile.

    Reply
  10. brucethomasw

    With each and every one of your written words, you have shock and awed me again, David. I love how you turn this phase around, as an example of how the power of love can disarm, victimizer and victimized alike. I recall Thich Nhat Hanh writing about his return to Vietnam, in his book The Art of Power, (I think it was). I will go back and re-read a few chapters. The photos are wonderful too. Thanks for your humility and sharing, and witnessing by example. I will endeavor to walk on a similar path, of compassion and love.

    Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      your comment is very kind, Bruce. i remember as Thich Nhat Hanh gave dozens of talks across Vietnam in 2007 he frequently referred to the stories from the art of power, especially when the audience was business and political leaders. may we all shock and awe are small sense of self into our beautiful potential of being connected and whole 🙂

      Reply
  11. Mélanie

    Wonderful post, as usually… I’ve always appreciated the serenity of your topics… even though I haven’t left a line! Dalai Lama comes to France every year, his French interpreter-translator Matthieu Ricard, ex-scientist left France almost 40 years ago and he’s dedicated his life to Tibet and to Buddhism… recently, he was considered one of the happiest man on earth! I’m really proud of him: 🙂

    Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      Thank you for your kind words and sharing, Melanie! I’m aware of Richard from another video. Thanks for sharing this one. He certainly is an inspirational presence. May you be well 🙂

      Reply
  12. Amy Pinkrose

    Hi, David. I came here personally to thank you for liking my article and commenting as well, that I wrote for The Talking Violin. Your support really meant a lot to me. xxoo, Amy

    Reply
  13. l1brarygrl

    Beautiful. I wouldn’t be here if I continued down the path of life as a victim. Meditation has blessed me in that I can find the peace, forgiveness, and compassion in my ever-growing heart to accept and sit with the anger and sadness that overcome me at times, breathing with them as they slowly fade like morning fog. Forgiving and loving myself proves harder than those who’ve hurt me, and I realize forgiveness, letting go, remembering the good, striving to understand others’ pasts that shaped them, is part of my journey. I gain strength from choosing love over hate (I don’t even like to say the word), which gives me the energy to be a voice and conduit of positive change for those in need. Peace.

    Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      appreciate reading your personal triumph
      to move in the direction of light
      despite the overwhelming energy
      we’re surrounded by
      to go into darkness!
      may it continue to be so 🙂

      Reply
  14. Kim

    Thanks so much for this. It is something that has been on my mind a lot in the past year, really trying to understand making peace with the ‘enemy’ especially when the enemy seems so resistant to peace, communication, actual dialogue. I have to admit I find it hard with certain people to move beyond defensiveness and blaming. But I am determined to keep trying for greater open-mindedness and compassion! Thanks for sharing your perspective on the issue. It’s encouraging to hear from others who are on the journey, committed to true understanding 🙂

    Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      Thank you for your kind words. It is a challenge for all of us who are victims of something. To stop the cycle by at least not behaving as the victim, giving ourselves the gift of healing and better karma. Wishing you happiness with your peaceful steps. 🙂

      Reply
  15. Pingback: Jeffster Awards: Week 20 | Deconstructing Myths

  16. weavergrace

    Congrats on your Jeffster award!

    “see the suffering in those who have victimized” When I remember to do this, I breathe such a deep sigh of peace, safety, and acceptance. I look at the woman while she is being cruel, and think about how miserable she feels. I look at the boss who is being nasty, and think about where he learned such behavior: targeted at him. I hear insults and realize that they are expressions of the way that the speaker is actually feeling.

    We must be incredibly grounded and in-the-moment to stay and deliberately respond, radiating love to people whom we care about instead of leaving, feeling injured. It takes a lot of practice. We get many opportunities. I like your breathing exercise. It is appropriate for so many occasions. I’d like to remember to use it when I feel victimized.

    “May I shock and awe others, known and unknown, with my compassionate, loving presence and actions.” Yes! So be it!

    “Feeding hungry and sick children now, and forgiving ourselves for killing the children back then” Knock the wind out of me! What a powerful way to heal!

    Thank you for sharing your writing.

    Reply
  17. delightfullyslow

    Grüezi Smilecalm! The peace that you create within leads to “love and kindness!” You have found Smilecalm,, your path to happiness! Dankeschön as well to Melanie for sharing the video on the happiest man in the world. Matthieu Ricard,truly emits the feeling of being a peaceful, loving and kind individual! Tschüss!

    Reply
  18. harulawordsthatserve

    I hadn’t realised how many of your posts I’d missed – but I’ve enjoyed catching up:-) This is SUCH a beautiful and powerful post. What I appreciate is the acknowledgement that bringing about a more peaceful world does take commitment and focus and willingness, there’s no magic wand, but if we use these tools, gifted by such wise teachers, then we can make suffering less. Compassion is a very powerful tool, as is not identifying oneself as a victim, but they require skill and strength. Be well and free my friend, Harula xxx

    Reply
    1. smilecalm Post author

      thank you for taking the time to look back and kindly comment. not behaving as a victim has been a valuable practice with me and i understand why it resonates with so many others, who are ready to let go of that pain. smiles to you 🙂

      Reply

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