Do We Suffer Fools Gladly Or Rage Against Them?
Is one who suffers fools gladly one who is gladly a fool?
Q: What if someone is unreasonable? Should we suffer fools gladly? Should we speak up? I spoke up once but was disturbed that it displeased the person, while there was some anger in me. After that, I simply did things my way, against her unreasonable preference.
A: It is okay to simply discuss with the person. Even if she disagrees unreasonably, you can just smile and carry on doing what you see as sound. The problem arises when there is anger in your dialogue, even if in a subdued way. It is possible to just speak with a sense of mindful loving-kindness to impart common sense and wisdom. All we can do is be blameless on our part. If she blames you for no good reason, it’s her fault, not yours.
Q: If you witness, say, a child being abused, would you interfere to stop it? Our compassion would naturally urge us to react to aid the child in danger. But in the process of interference, if you were verbally abused and threatened, how would you react?
A: Yes, I would do what I can to stop what seems unethical. Or even call the police. The challenge is as you mentioned – What if our intervention is not taken well? My answer is simple – Just ensure that we intervene well with good intentions and means that seem sound in the moment, without negative thoughts and feelings arising. If they arise, our initially positive actions would have been negatively intervened by our own defilements (not the other person’s). Whether our intervention is taken well or not is less important than ensuring it is fueled by good intentions.
Q: Righteous anger invokes fearlessness, but it also arise from delusion and is a defilement. How can I compromise standing up strongly with the rise of anger?
A: Anger gives rise to rashness and regrets – so it is never good to be angry – although appearing firm is useful at times. It is possible to be firm yet calm – that’s how the enlightened Bodhisattvas subdued wrathful demons. Even when the Bodhisattvas manifest forms more wrathful than the demons, the Bodhisattvas are really not shaken by any anger within.
Q: Your comments are enlightening. The key word that would help me to overcome the ego is to be ‘blameless’ in whatever I do. When blameless, my conscience is clear, with no need for fear or anger to arise!
A: There’s a need to be mindful too – to not be prideful that one is blameless – because this would cause more manifestations of ego-related problems. Pride (which is different from dignity) is not blameless! For example, the Buddha is always blameless, but without being egoistic that he is blameless (as he has already realised the illusion of the ego). He rights wrongs, but doesn’t do so with haughty self-righteousness that insists others must listen to him no matter what. Actually, the more we insist in an agitated way, the more likely it is that others turn a deaf ear to us. Being firm, calm and clear can help others see our views better. It can urge them to be calm and clear too.
Q: Yes, indeed. When prideful, we might look down upon others, and let ego-related misperceptions cloud us. That would be more blameworthy!