9. A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others

I do not know what makes you tick. I do not live inside your life. I am not familiar with the multitude of influences that have brought you to this place. I do not see the world as you see the world. You are a deep mystery, not fully known even to yourself, much less to any other person.

When I believe I can interpret your actions, it is a small step to the place where I then start to believe that I know what is best for you. I quickly fall prey to the violent illusion that I know what is wrong with your life and what you should do to fix it. This is a disaster.

Untold grief has been caused in the world by people believing they can figure out what is going on inside other people and then know what is better for those people what is best for their lives than they know themselves. This is the route of colonialism and the source of many of the wars in history. It lies at the base of violence, intolerance and prejudice of all stripes.

When I start to give up “interpreting the actions of others,” I will soon find that #’s 10 and 11 of “12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening” also begin to happen (cf. #3):

10. A loss of interest in judging others

11. A loss of interesting in judging self

All judgments are odious. Jesus said simply,

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. (Luke 6:37)

Judgement always stems from a good, better, best vision of the world. This view never represents reality. It is an inadequate and twisted vision of life.

Life cannot be accurately divided into good, better, best. What looks better to me at one time, may turn out to be the source of great grief in the future, just as, what I judge a disaster at the moment, may become a source of growth and strength in the future.

There is a famous Taoist story that tells of a poor farmer who lived in a small village and owned a single horse. One day the farmer’s horse ran away. His neighbors came to console the farmer for his terrible loss. The farmer said, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”

A month later, the horse returned. She was followed by two beautiful wild horses which the farmer captured. The farmer’s neighbors came again this time to rejoice with their friend at this great gift. The farmer asked, “What makes you think this is such a great gift?”

A few days later the farmer’s son was out riding on one of the wild horses. The horse threw the farmer’s son to the ground and the son broke his leg. All the neighbors were terribly sad for the farmer. They came and sympathized with him saying, “What bad luck this is!” The farmer replied, “What makes you think it is bad luck?”

The country in which the farmer lived was plunged into a terrible war. All the able-bodied men in the farmer’s village were conscripted into the army and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, was left at home with his family. The neighbors congratulated the farmer at his great good fortune. “What makes you think this is good fortune?” asked the farmer.

It is only honest to acknowledge how little we know about what is really going on in life. I do not understand many of the details of my own life. I am certainly in no position to pretend I understand your actions and I am utterly unqualified to sit in judgment on your choices.

Life is just what is happening now. I will encounter my life and move forward with greater freedom when I simply respond to the realities of the moment as they are, without adding the burden of my constant assessment and evaluation.


nb: since I started posting these “12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening” I have been directed to their original source – please see: http://www.symptomsofinnerpeace.net/Home.html