I was chatting recently with a gentleman about my regard for someone who seemed to be a good man and well intentioned. My acquaintance remarked, “Yes, I agree, but …..” before proceeding to air his grievances about this person, pointing out one perceived fault after another. I reflected on why my critic friend felt such a need to counter my innocuous, positive comment, with which he agreed, with his own list of negatives. It’s a common habit. The mind, ever discontent, looks for, finds, and dwells upon imperfections. “It’s a beautiful day, but….” “That was a great meal, but……” “She’s a noble person, but…..”
“I’m just being trying to see all sides,” some offer as an excuse but is this really true? More importantly, is it helpful to habitually look for imperfections? Why must praise or compliments be tempered by perceived faults? When a friend proudly invites you to visit his new home, do you make an inspection of the closets to find flaws? Of course not; you say, “Congratulations” and offer a compliment.
Incessant disgruntlement or feeling a need to “balance” positive observations with negative ones is a mental disease that feeds discontent and subtly attracts to us the very things we dislike. How could they not come if we are constantly on the lookout for them? Far from “seeing all sides,” we find ourselves exploring problems to such an extent that intuitive perception of higher, more expansive solutions to those same problems becomes impossible.
I knew a man in India who incessantly found fault with everything: co-workers, group decisions, world affairs, family, current circumstances. Within short order, new acquaintances learned to give him a wide berth or risk falling into his whirlpool of negativity. The result was a self-made world without friends along with a festering sense of victimhood as being “misunderstood.” “If things weren’t so rotten, I’d be different,” was his assessment, failing to see his suffering was self-inflicted.
Those infected with the carping spirit close doors to spiritual counsel or guidance from others or from the world around them. This was Krishna’s point when he said to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, “To you, who have overcome the carping spirit, I now reveal the sublime mystery.” Arjuna, perfected in discipleship and with intellect purified, was receptive to what Krishna offered. By overcoming the impulse toward attitudes that block attunement, he actively drew guidance from his guru.
Rābiʿa al-Baṣrī, an eighth century Sufi mystic, said, “Yes” when asked, “Do you love God?” but surprised her audience when she was asked next, “Do you hate Satan?” “No,” Rabi’a replied. “My love for God leaves no room for hating Satan. My love for God has so possesses me that no place remains for loving or hating anyone save Him.”
Swami Kriyananda restated Rabi’a’s answer in one of his songs, “What we need is Light! You can’t drive out the darkness with a stick.” When Light fills us, where can darkness dwell? Swamiji’s focus upon the heights was more than “positive thinking.” It recognized we do more than color our view of “reality” by our state of mind. We actively participate in its creation and influence it to our benefit or ill. Give energy to the good if you wish to attract the better angels of happiness into your life.