Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What do you do with rudeness?

Posted by Picasa my painting, a "copy" of Paul Klee's Senecio

Yesterday a man called my office. I’d say he was in his 20s and is brother to an incoming freshman woman who will attend MSU this fall. Her academic orientation is next week, when she will enroll for classes (that begin in 2 weeks).

He was angry and rude. For fifteen minutes he ranted about how late his sister’s orientation is and how all the classes will be filled. I reassured him that we have been doing this for years, that we reserve seats for students such as his sister, etc., but he kept on ranting and spewing his diatribe that we would “screw up” his sister’s first year in college. Nothing I said could appease him. He had no respect for me as a person or a professional. At the end of the call, I fed back to him my concern that he is undermining his sister’s chances for trusting her adviser. He denied this.

For the rest of the day, I stewed about it. It was painful to think about, but I kept it there, ready to share it with our department secretary or my husband.

This morning, in meditation, I tried letting it go. I have a helpful meditation taught me by a friend where I visualize my green heart chakra creating an opening from my head down through my toes for the Divine Intelligence Formerly Known as God (Rob Brezsny’s title) to flow like a river. Then I place all my worries or uglies in the river, letting them flow to the earth. Then the earth transforms them, filters them, and sends back energy into my 7 chakras, and I do a balancing meditation.

But it wouldn’t work this morning. I didn’t want to let that man’s rude behavior go.

So I followed Krishnamurti’s advice and acknowledged that I AM the emotion I was feeling. What was it? What was I feeling?

“He can’t do that to me! He can’t talk to me like that!”

As soon as I said those words in my head, recognized them, I realized:

He CAN do that. He gets to do what he wants. He is free.

And “whooooosh” it slipped away.

By resisting the man’s behavior, I kept it inside ME. Is there any possible way that could be good?

A smart person said, “when someone throws you a ball, you don’t have to catch it.”

It’s my response that matters. I don’t have to receive it. I don’t have to “accept” it in the sense of approval. I CAN let it go right through me, without “catching” it, without letting his mean spirit stay in me.


Posted by Picasa Amedeo M0digliani's Jeanne Hébuterne with Yellow Sweater, 1918–1919 (in the Guggenheim)


Ginnie said...

Oh my, Ruth. This is incredibly powerful. Thank you for sharing it! (I'm responding to it on myriad levels inside of me, without words!)

Ruth said...

Thank you, Boots (Ginnie).

Amy said...

I love this post, Ruth! As always, I find your wisdom in these things to be so helpful for me personally. This was a great reminder (and another perspective) for me as I have a tendency to hold on to those things as well. You've given me much to ponder!

Ruth said...

I'm glad, Amy. I like getting rid of these things, but sometimes they don't want to be gotten rid of.

Anonymous said...


This is exactly what I've been thinking about, and practicing, over the past few weeks. It's amazing how peaceful you can become if you just accept that "what is, is" and stop resisting it. The other day I was feeling very "unhappy" and felt resentful about that. I read some K and then realized that what made me really unhappy was not that I wasn't feeling "happy", but that I subconsciously subscribed to the assumption that I should not have to be unhappy, that I somehow was entitled to not being unhappy. I've felt pretty good since that day last week!

Love ya!


Ruth said...

Ing, wow, that's a powerful revelation. Can't wait to talk with you about it! I've missed you!

Don said...

This is a great lesson to think about. I know that I keep things in like you and Ing referred to, as if that is a good thing! I have been using Ing's mantra, "what is, is" many times this year and find it to be very helpful. I can't control everything, but I can try to control what controls my mind!

Ruth said...

Don, you're right. We can't control anything outside of ourselves, so it's helpful to accept that.

Heather said...

Ruth, that is wonderful that you were able to let go of this negativity. My usual response (inside my head) to situations like yours is to repeat (F**k you, Motherf**ker!) gangsta-style (also inside my head, or out loud in the car when I am alone). Probably, this is not the best response, because as you suggest, I'm just holding onto that negativity.

Must practice letting go. Especially of the curse words. :)

p.s. love that Modigliani.

thehealingroom said...

Dear Ruth,
"He CAN do that. He gets to do what he wants. He is free. "
Yes! This is good news, because it means we are free too.
This is a great example of Not Taking Anything Personally.
Like your catching the ball analogy, one has to "take" it, to take it personally.

Ruth said...

Heather, as you know, I had another, even worse, incident yesterday. I realize that I am not holding on to it, but I feel as if I've been kicked. It will take a bit of time to "recover" from being treated with utter disrespect. Maybe sometimes the utterances, profane or otherwise, of anger are a way of letting to. I don't know.

Ruth said...

THR, as I mentioned in my comment to Heather, I had a very bad experience before leaving work yesterday, in which I felt quite threatened and almost called the police -- right in my office! It was not personal in the sense that it was a total stranger who didn't know me, but it was intensely person by way of attack. So today, I feel bruised, but I will recover. I'm not holding it in, but I'm just living in what is and realizing I'm not 100% today. And that's ok!

Rauf said...

No you can't stand on the same platform Ruth, The man created an impact with his rudeness. You were extremely polite which he does not deserve. I would shut him by saying let the student herself come out with her grievances. She has a mouth to express herself. Sometimes we have to be very blunt Ruth.

Ruth said...

Rauf, you're right, I told him we expect students who come here to be independent adults. It really does not help the students when relatives take care of their problems for them. It is part of their education to solve problems and take responsibility for their own affairs. Unfortunately, I am seeing this grow worse and worse, in that parents (we call them "helicopter parents" because they hover) are interfering more and more in their children's affairs in college. I've even heard of parents calling a business to negotiate their child's salary. Ugh.

rachel said...

Hey, that salary negotiation sounds pretty cool- you know, I mean, if the kid were on the line, too, and could hear how it's done! That's a great skill to learn!

But seriously, I know what you mean. There isn't anyone who gets under my skin with their rudeness like Wyatt (my step-son). Where do you draw the line between not letting it affect you and tolerating too much? Ugh! The lessons keep coming! The work gets harder!

Ruth said...

Rachel, you are so right. The lessons keep getting harder.