I try to take something positive from each day, and today I want to share that with you, before this day is over. Today, I learnt the true value of tolerance and patience. There are subtle differences between those two virtues - tolerance is the ability to endure personal injury and appreciate that others are different from ourselves; patience is the ability to wait for what we desire or endure undesirable behaviour in others - but, when applied to our attitude towards our fellow humans, they are very similar qualities. With that in mind, I will discuss them here interchangeably.
It is important that we do not deny our own nature. I have to confess that my own tendency has been towards conflict. I grew up in quite a tough environment, so certain responses were programmed deep into my psyche from an early age: responses which no longer serve me as well as they once did. As a child, it was inconceivable that I should understand the feelings, needs and behaviour of other people (Jean Piaget, a Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher, noted that children are essentially egocentric). What changed? I started my study of martial arts and, through that study, discovered Eastern philosophy.
Sun Tzu wrote that knowing your enemy, and knowing yourself, would give you the strength to win a hundred battles without a single loss. My interpretation of this stems from his assertion that the greatest victory is that achieved without hostility. I must use an example to illustrate my point. Less than two years ago, a great wrong was committed against me. The magnitude of the injury caused is made apparent by the fact that I desired revenge. To tell the truth, I could see no way for me to find peace without vengeance. For me to do this, I had to follow Sun Tzu's advice to know my enemy (if you haven't read "The Art of War", I highly recommend it, for those with the intelligence to understand) and find their weaknesses. One of the downsides of the internet is the digital trail we leave behind us. Anyone with the skills to analyse the written word, or what our interests, goals and relationships say about us can virtually peer into our soul.
I know just about all I want to know about my enemy now. The result of my knowledge is a greatly increased ability to exact a terrible revenge, and also a reduced likelihood of following the path which leads to getting my revenge. I will never regard this person as a friend, nor will I ever forget the terrible injury which was inflicted, but my knowledge has led to understanding and compassion. The very weaknesses I sought to uncover have made this person more real, more human, to me. I feel no shame about my initial reaction, because I see that my life, especially my early life, has conditioned me to react aggressively to any perceived threat.
The main asset we possess in our quest to move forward is our ability to recognise our strengths and weaknesses for what they are. I saw my vengefulness as a strength, and in reality it is a sign of weakness. Patience, tolerance, the ability to know and understand another person - those are the things which require the most tremendous strength.