Teaching people to become spiritual warriors is one of my most loved yet often challenging experiences in my practice. My definition of a spiritual warrior is this – anyone who lives by their highest ideals, valuing and facing life directly with the intention to do no harm. Becoming a spiritual warrior means learning to navigate through the battleground of cruel actions and words that emotionally or mentally hurt or maim others, and not engaging in them. Living our deepest and truest values, and demonstrating healthy boundaries as well as compassion as we engage with everyone with whom we come in contact, can be as habitual as whatever we are presently doing, with practice. This is no easy task if we are accustomed to dealing with others who unconsciously make themselves feel powerful by going for the weak spot and digging the proverbially knife in. Milder forms of cruelty and thoughtlessness are not always as easy to assess, especially if you grew up in a household(s) that engaged in regular hurtful behavior(s). Any painful, neglectful or mean actions require response, even if the response is to end the relationship. The following suggestions can lead us to becoming more powerful in handling difficult people and in working with our internal worlds as we determine where these relationships should or should not be in our lives. Firstly, no retaliatory actions will ever make you feel good about yourself or help build the quality of relationship you are ultimately seeking. Only setting healthy and appropriate boundaries will change the relationship for the better. Anyone who uses their inner knowledge about how to hurt someone else, even unconsciously, needs to be put in a place in your life where they can not do damage to you. Ultimately, anyone with a conscience feels guilty about cruel behavior. You serve no one in making yourself available to them for this kind of action. If they do not feel poorly about hurtful behavior and you do, recognizing differing values is the first step in going separate ways and creating peace, allowing each to live by their own values. Think of your circle of friends and family as a bull’s eye. Move the dangerous people outward until they cannot reach you to hurt you. Sometimes this might mean out of the circle all together.
Secondly, it is personally beneficial to examine the reasons you have not set boundaries to stop the activity or end the relationship. This one can be tough because it can be hard to imagine how we might benefit from avoiding healthy boundary maintenance. The following are some questions you might consider as you search for the inner reasons you have developed unhealthy relationships. Are you a conflict avoider? If you find that you cannot handle conflict, it would be helpful to learn some skills in this area. If you are avoiding conflict, could it be that you fear losing the relationship(s) all together? Do you prefer hurtful relationships to none? Is one of the underlying reasons you accept less because you are afraid of feeling alone? If this is your truth, then it is time to make peace with the reality that we are all alone in some important ways. We feel most alone when we do not feel known by ourselves, or seen for our real selves by others. Do you know who you really are, and are you behaving accordingly? Deep inside, do you believe you deserve to be treated poorly? Have you developed an inability to value yourself through maintaining these relationships, perhaps acting poorly in return, creating an unhealthy dance between you? Is there laziness, a resignation, or a bitterness that you have developed over time, no longer bothering to attempt change, accepting the situation and taking on a victim stance?
Thirdly, embody your values and truth rigorously. If you say a certain behavior feels really wrong to you, then do not behave that way yourself. And do not come up with your own version of bad behavior disguised in martyrdom or anything else. When we really believe in kindness, we behave that way AND we accept no less from others. When we value truth, we speak honestly – consistently – AND we accept no less from others. When we believe in respect, we behave respectfully with everyone, AND we accept no less from others. When we believe in love, we behave lovingly AND we find loving people to surround us. What I have found in my years of living my values rigorously is that the more we behave in line with our values, the more naturally those we no longer fit with seem to disengage from our lives, and not necessarily with much drama. A mutual lack of interest develops as we change and those with whom we do not fit well remain the same. The relationship comes to its organic conclusion. It has lived out its usefulness.
Accepting less from others, deep down, reflects a belief that they are less. (Never mind that we feel less and deserving of the treatment) This acceptance, in some way, states that we believe that they cannot behave more kindly, respectfully, truthfully, lovingly; ultimately aiding in perpetuating the behavior. We are the cup that holds what they are pouring forth. If you choose to be the cup, you are a part of the equation that keeps the behavior pouring. Once we become conscious that we aid in continuing the dance, it can be easier to withdraw our part of the process, thereby being true to our inner values and beliefs by creating a boundary that says, no more. No more with me.
Creating a fulfilling life includes having people in our world that respect and value us, that treat us well. It is difficult to have the energy or interest to cultivate change if we are managing unhealthy relationships around us, unable to step forward into changes that we believe could be healthy and more gratifying. But in order to create a life that we can fully respect, making relationship changes is essential if we find ourselves in unhealthy friendships, marriages or family ties. It takes great courage and determination to face this aspect of our life and then to take action. These are the qualities of a spiritual warrior, one who stands peacefully strong within and upholds honorable ideals.