Responding to Verbal Challenges

Posted: May 5, 2015 in Observations on Life

First, let me explain what I mean by ‘verbal challenge’. I mean words used as a weapon.  Since I’ve been living on the streets I’ve noticed a certain pattern. Of course, one need not live on the streets in order to witness this pattern, and indeed these things were already obvious to me as they are obvious to most people. However living within them, with repeated exposure, alters ones perception and can lead one to a more disciplined response.

The main pattern we see in response to verbal challenges is one of escalation. It could be a misspoken word, an intentional slight, a direct attack, or perhaps just a misunderstanding. But when one person uses words against another, the usual response is one of defensiveness on the part of the recipient of said words. This position of defensiveness gives rise to a mindset of reprisal. You have challenged me, so I must rise to the challenge and respond in kind.

On the streets this process of escalation occurs rather rapidly. One person says something, the other says something in response – usually more loudly and with heightened anger. And then the original party ups the ante one more notch. It’s like watching a tennis match where each time the ball is struck, its speed increases 10-fold. Before you know it, the original statement that began the argument is forgotten and now it’s just a matter of one-up-man-ship.

Bouncing back and forth – two, three, four times, it’s quite easy for things to escalate from frustration, to anger, to rage, to violence. Now we have two or more beings engaged in a physical struggle on top of an emotional one; giving rise to an additional layer of emotional struggle that will come for all parties after the physical confrontation has occurred; usually both parties hurting, chastising, continuing to taunt the other, etc. In other words – it doesn’t really end until sometime after the situation has been physically resolved.

Let’s take a step back from this common occurrence though and look at the preferred alternative of peaceful non-resistance, of resolving the situation through love and kindness rather than compounded confusion. If person A issues forth words, person B is then responsible for their reaction to those words. It is person B who has the initial choice to make – do I escalate or deescalate this situation. This may sound unfair since person B did not initiate the situation, but it is a simple fact.

I find myself in many situations where I am verbally toyed with, insulted, or even outright attacked. In each and every situation my initial response is to smile and say thank you. Only in those situations where I’ve had multiple encounters with someone who is intent on being verbally abusive do I ask them to cease – and then ask them to leave or work to remove myself from the situation. In these situations I move immediately to my heart-breath and take refuge in my beingness as a being of infinite love.

Indeed I expect this type of activity to continue – and even get worse as I  speak with larger and larger groups of people about the nature of truth. God has been teaching me how to stand quiet and remain grounded in the essence of love while someone moving from a position of confusion tries to unleash that confusion in my direction. I expect most of these types of attacks to come from people attached to particular religious, political, and economic belief systems – those who love the illusion.

God has been teaching me these lessons by putting certain ‘challenging people’ in my path.  But I say unto you that the same lessons God has been teaching me apply to all beings and are consistent with the teachings of Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount. If someone uses words as a weapon, or words become a weapon, we cannot resist those words by shaping a weapon of our own. Instead we must receive those words as the empty, confused, and meaningless things they are, letting go of our egoic desire to respond in-kind or escalate the situation.

Not only that, but if we have the option to do so, we should greet such words, words used as a weapon, with the warmth of selfless love. A smile, an effort to disarm the would be attacker with kindness, a question to address any misunderstanding that may have arisen, and so on. We breathe in the heart-breath, remind ourselves that the other person is moving from a place of confusion, we extend our selfless love out toward that person, and we diffuse things to the best of our ability.

As person B, responding to a situation, sometimes person A will take such an attempt as a stratagem that requires continued escalation on their part – despite your obvious attempt to step aside. In such a case the same formula applies. Yes, I am suggesting that if someone wishes to continue bashing you with their words, you just stand there, breathe, smile, and take it in. You respond again with love and kindness; again, and again, and again. You do not rise to the bait; you simply roll with the verbal punches.

This is not to say that you should just continue being used as a verbal punching bag indefinitely – but rather that your duty is to clear up any misunderstandings first, diffuse the situation if possible, let the person vent if needed, and step away when you’ve reached your limit. Just don’t allow yourself to get pulled into the swordplay. When you become the darkness that you are confronting, you have already lost the fight. Instead of meeting darkness with darkness, we must learn to shine our light.

I’ll talk about the escalation from verbal to physical attacks in another article, but the same basic principles apply if a situation escalates to physical violence. Indeed, Jesus said that we must learn to turn the other cheek. It may be hard.  In fact it may feel like a nearly insurmountable task, but this is what God calls us to do. He who lives by the sword will die by the sword – this includes both verbal and physical disputes. But he who lives with love will never die, for selfless love is deathless.

Always remember, we are all one. We are all one as consciousness, as energy, and as matter. We are one with God, one with each other, one with all things. Everything absent of love arises from the confusion of the conditioned mind. This confusion is due to our perception of separateness and division. If someone is attempting to use words as a weapon against you – see them as you – understand their confusion – and forgive them for it “for they know not what they do”.

When I say that “we must move through this world with love, kindness, generosity, gratitude, and grace; with forgiveness as the mechanism by which we embrace one another”, this is exactly the kind of thing that I am talking about. If you see unity with all beings in your mind’s eye, the nature of selfless love becomes quite clear. You can do nothing other than forgive those who have not yet seen the truth for themselves, and use your example of selfless love to show them what it means to live in such a way.

So there you are – a few tidbits that can help address verbal challenges that may arise in your life. It gets easier with practice I promise, but it does require practice. If you are moving things in the direction of love and kindness, the end result of the situation does not matter so much as how you handled it does. So handle these situations with care, use love and kindness to diffuse things, and be the example of what you want to see in the world – a world of love and kindness where we are all one people.

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