Ask yourself how often you accept to conform to everybody else’s opinion, behavior or expectations, in order not to be criticized, in order to be well accepted in your social environment. You are afraid of gossip (unless “you” are the one doing it!), you fear what others might say about you because you believe that you could never live without your family and friends’ approval. Therefore you bow your head in sign of acceptance, you always say yes, and end up being “yourself” only in the secret of your spirit. There aren’t many individuals who are brave enough to express their opinions (in a friendly and cooperative way), especially when they are in contrast with the current way of thinking.
An opinion (and its consequent action) is considered “good” or “bad” according to the “intention”, a very important element behind every behavior.
If a friend asks you a favor (let’s say, to borrow your car) and you are unwilling to do it, you might accept only in order to appear helpful, to be considered generous and selfless, while in your heart you resent having to comply with his request. Although you are performing a kind deed (from which your friend will benefit) in reality you are behaving as a hypocrite because you are doing something that you hate. Someone else might follow his inner feeling (to which he is entitled) and refuse to lend his car, explaining the reasons. No one is obliged to do or give anything if he or she feels uncomfortable with the idea.
How do you judge the importance of “intention“? When you decide to follow a certain line of behavior, you might ask yourself, “What goal am I trying to reach?,” Is such goal totally honest toward others as well as myself?, Do I want to carry out this action because I feel entitled to it?, Is it possible that such right of mine is harmful to others?” Before acting, it is advisable to always examine your intentions. When you want to fix a misunderstanding or heal a relationship, for instance, determine if you are really trying to find an agreement, a meeting point with the other. If you sincerely believe you are, but you don’t perceive any reciprocity, any will of cooperation from the other party, you will be able to say, “I respect your point of view on this situation, the way you are living your life, how you are dealing with the problem. I don’t wish to impose but, at the same time, I feel free not to accept your viewpoint as far as “my” decisions or my “life” are concerned.” Then … walk away.
On the other hand, if your examination shows that your real desire is to make your friend change his (or her) opinion in order to make yours “right,” giving up his freedom of decision, it is a good opportunity for you to know yourself better, to become aware of a side of your character you had never paid attention to. The fact that something seems fair to you may not mean that it is fair to everybody else.
If a person is making a mistake or is behaving in a harmful way, you should not feel entitled to demonize them. You cannot compel anyone to do what you would do, because others are not you. Therefore you are not authorized to judge and condemn. All you can do (and this is what we are trying to achieve, here!) is to invite others to reflect upon the consequences of their actions, hoping they will — willingly — realize that there might be a “truth” that is different from theirs.
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