“You are right.” The master smiled.
“What do you mean I am right?!” The student yells, finally having been pushed to the edge.
“You told me I was right yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that! I have been “right” since I first came here three years ago – am I not a little more “right” by now? Have I not proved my devotion, have I not elevated myself past this mere dismissal?! Please Master, I beg of you, help me!”
The Master looked upon the student with compassion, for she too had spent many years seeking while blind. After remaining silent until the emotions of her devout quieted, she spoke softly but with conviction: “you have never been cheated by anyone except yourself. I have told you the truth, every time you have approached me in your groveling subjugation you have been the fool you have presented yourself to be. Not until today had you displayed the curiosity of a noble soul and saught to wrestle with your gods. So today, we will all wrestle, but know this even before beginning – none of us will win.”
A long morning only growing longer; conversation circling dead horses like buzzards, it’s obvious this isn’t going anywhere. But neither am I.
I’m in a vehicle traveling to the bulk store for a monthly quarantine supply run with my housemate and oldest friend. She is frustrated, scared and edging into angry.
We live in a small, rural mountain town in Colorado. So far we have been blessed to avoid any cases of covid-19 among our limited population, but the stay at home order has caused a lot of insecurity for local small businesses. My friend’s parents own one such business, and she works for them.
Given these dynamics, it’s easy to imagine her frustration and fear. Things are very uncertain and from where we are standing there is still more evidence of information inaccuracies than viable cause for such drastic lifestyle disruptions.
Still, I sat opposed, the caretaker of an extremely high risk individual. Yet, I also had the sense that nothing I could say really mattered in those moments. Whenever I would interject I was bowled over by her return to venting, so I digressed.
My friend didn’t need me to make sense of the senselessness she was experiencing, she just needed to express it.
Extending Grace Beyond Reason
I had the opportunity to get upset. I had many chances to shut down, amplify or otherwise interject more energy into her dispare. A few times I was almost habitually baited, but I found my way back to grace instead.
I know my friend is a good person. She is one of the most generous, compassionate and caring people I know, both towards loved ones and strangers alike. So why should I allow one conversation, born of fear and frustration in an unprecedented global crisis, to tarnish my opinion of her?
The truth is, as I found it this morning, I don’t. I don’t have to engage her fears with my own. I don’t have to match her frustrations with mine. I don’t even have to agree to disagree – I can just listen, and then let it go.
Turning the Inward Out
I have been learning to give myself this level of grace. Choosing not to believe or attach to each and every errant thought. Becoming an observer of my own, often venting ego.
It was refreshing to apply it in a new way.
I have considered myself a graceful person for a long time, at least I have hoped to be – but this was different. “Graces” in the past have still been fueled by personal justifications, even if kept to myself. The sense of “they’ll see,” or “told you so” looming in my mind behind quiet lips… but this grace had no caveat for ego.
This grace just listened, acknowledged my friend’s discomfort but formed no attachment or opinion about it. It comforted, not through sense but rather through silence.
Grace doesn’t need to win. Grace isn’t interested in being right or making someone wrong. Grace persists, uplifts and overcomes. Today I am beginning to understand the immense wisdom of that first hand.