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Daily Connect: Giving Up on Another Person



What does it mean to "give up" on someone?  Does it mean cutting them out of your life?  Does it mean living with them and hating everything they say and do?  Does it mean wishing they were someone else?  Does it mean hating them?  Or is it the simple belief that someone never can or will change? 

At the lovingkindness retreat two weeks ago, Sharon Salzberg mentioned that one of her teachers often said, "Never throw anyone out of your heart."  She laughed when she told us her friend and colleague Sylvia Boorstein had amended this to, "You can throw someone out of your life if you need to, but never throw them out of your heart," and we all laughed too because it's a funny idea to us: to care about someone who is difficult, or mean, or harmful.   

When my teacher bestowed the Boddhisattva Vow, he told us that although each day we'll have unkind thoughts and unskillful deeds, so long as our aspiration is true, our vow cannot truly be broken.  Though the vow is accompanied by a long list of behaviors and actions to avoid, by sincerely acknowledging and regretting a transgression, we remain on the Boddhisattva Path.   However, we break the vow when we completely give up on another person;  by thinking, That's it, I'm not going to do anything for you ever again, I've had it with you!   
Anytime we have such a powerful feeling, we're filled with anger, sadness, grief, and disappointment.  We don't have to be Buddhist or take a Bodhisattva Vow to intuitively understand how painful it is to harbor resentment, which usually causes us deep heartache and misery.  The editor and radio host Judith Regan explained this perfectly in a recent interview, relating her experience with her ex-husband.  He'd been an abusive partner and neglectful father, and she had cut him out of her life.  Many years later, at her son's wedding she saw him again:  
When he arrived, he was holding onto his nurse. He was quivering and unsteady on his feet. “I suppose you think I am getting my comeuppance,” he said. Before I could say a word my sister piped in with, “You could say that again.”

But the truth is I didn’t feel that way at all. Seeing him suffer from Parkinson’s disease broke my heart. He seemed not at all the image of the irresponsible swashbuckler I’d carried with me for so long. I was filled with overwhelming regret that I had turned my back on him.  I should have answered his calls. I should have forgiven him. I should have let go of the disappointment long ago. What a horrible mistake I’d made to abandon all hope, to empty my heart of any possibility of love or compassion.

"Giving up" on anyone, even ourselves, means giving up the belief that each and every one of us without exception has the nature and potential to realize enlightenment and become free of suffering and confusion.  Why do that?  As Sogyal Rinpoche says,  “Our buddha nature is as good as any Buddha’s buddha nature.”
Peace to Everyone Everywhere!
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Cutting people out

How funny life's synchronicities are.
I started a relationship 10 months ago with someone I felt a wonderful connection with.
Something I had not felt in years. It was going well but he began to withdraw and despite attempts to balance the issues he eventually cut me out without communication or explanation.
What I gad not been aware if nor he was my very first experience if this happened at the age if 19 with a man I loved vert deeply.
He cut me out in the most severe way to the extent if walking past me in the street like he dud not know me.
There had been ni fight, no argument, nothing to explain his actions. It left me with a great deal of emotional pain for many years.
When it reappeared some 18 years later I was cast back to those emotions again.
This time however I have delt with it differently.
I have uncovered how to live with the space invetween.
Working on my own undressed pain from the past, accepting it and not resisting the present state g
Has enabled me to remain true to myself.
It is ok to feel hurt and anger, resentment or betrayal and yet it is also so much more important to release it and allow things to be.
Some of us are far more advanced in our path to enlightenment and as such can be a guide to others.
However when those others withdraw and do not pay heed the only action left is to emit the lovingkindness from where you sit; even if this is many miles away.
Surrender to the now and releasing ourselves from the past or the future expectations allows freedom for us and them to grow.
In time and it may not even be in this time there is always hope that the lesson can be learnt.
We are human and by that virtue are flawed in many ways.
Know this, embrace this and honour your true self, for this above anything is what matters the most.
I for one will always leave the door ajar...


Apologies for the grammatical errors x

Perfect Timing

I've had this very question in my mind all day. Thank you.


Kim, This is so wise and well-said. Thanks. It reminds of something I heard once from Noah Levine -- "Unconditional love? Absolutely. Unconditional relationship? Never." His point was that recognizing and respecting another person's buddhanature doesn't mean that you lay down and let them walk all over you.


Thanks Nancy

Love Noah's comment, it's perfect!  

"You can throw someone out of your life if you need to...

...but never throw them out of your heart."

To me, Sylvia Boorstien's practical point is the central idea here. I personally have been in a situation similar to Judith Regan's, seeing someone who had been very abusive to me in a vulnerable state – and it is heartbreaking. I, too, felt guilty for not having reached out to him more, not lowering my guard, not forgiving sooner . . . but all of the "should haves" that come up just trigger feelings of guilt and self-aggression for me, when, in fact, I might have been engaging in idiot compassion if I'd allowed myself to engage with this person again. Sometimes, for whatever reason, some interpersonal dynamics don't improve and it can be an incredible act of gentleness for all concerned to let a person go out of your life. But that doesn't have to mean closing your heart to them. Sometimes the best place to express compassion and loving-kindness for someone else is from very far away. France, if possible.

Vive la France!

France is a great idea!    Thanks for the thoughtful comment.  

The wisdom of going places that scare you

Three years after my divorce, having endured a highly virulent period of estrangement, one of the most helpful and therapeutic things that I can find to do is to spend time around my ex.

The primary motivation is to help repair the psyche of the children, however, I find myself perceiving her humanity in a way that completely contradicts the visage of the evil, conniving narcissist that I created in my mind. All of those anger-driven, negative constructs start to weaken and fall apart. A sense of empathy begins to well up and undermine my paradigm.

Any trepidation that I felt before the visit is far outweighed by the peace and wholeness I feel after the visit.

I see other divorced couples who hold onto and perpetuate their anger and I am immediately aware of how their predicament is often a self-generated phenomenon.

Advice from friends, family, or counselors sometimes serve only to reinforce these mis-constructed perceptions.

^ <3 "Follow your heart...

^ <3
"Follow your heart... Your heart will demand that you live in the here and now. And it will at the same time keep you mindful of the impact of your actions on the generations who follow you. It may lead you down a hard road from time to time, but it will always lead you down the right road."

giving up on bad

My wife's family has decided on giving up on her father. He is a crack addict and beats my youngest brother-inlaw. No one really wants to let go of family but the violence was too much. Rehab has not helped, family love has not helped. What a tough choice. Maybe it's not forever.

Giving up on another person

This article rings true for me, but I'm not sure how to deal with my situation on a personal level. I cut off contact with my sister about 3 years ago because her behavior was so nasty that it not only drove a wedge between our family, but the situation dredged up some deep childhood pain on my end. This resulted in extreme anxiety for me and my health took a turn for the worse. I've been struggling with stress-related health issues (Fibromyalgia, IBS and extreme fatigue) for 3 years now and my symptoms flare up whenever this issue rears its ugly head again. How do I resolve this problem when my health is so severely affected? I know my life would be so much more calm if I had no contact with the family members that cause me stress, but how do I continue on the path of the Boddhisattva with such circumstances?

Old Wounds

I'm so sorry you are suffering with illness and anxiety.  It's really hard to keep a tender, open heart for ourselves -- we're often harder on us than we are on other people.  I think we all must remember that the great compassion which motivates a bodhisattva includes ourselves, not just other people.  I hope you will find a way to forgive yourself for your decision, as well as forgive your family.  

so timely!

i've been really struggling with this lately, as i've severed an unhealthy relaitonship with someone i really love. i'm finding it difficult to keep that person in my heart because of how much grief i have over not having them in my life anymore. i think the only giving up i need to do now is to give up on that person ever being who i'd hope they would be instead of who they really are - i'm missing a version of them that i don't think exists.

Giving Up Our Illusions

I understand, "i'm missing a version of them that i don't think exists";  it's so hard to give up our hopes and wishes for and about another person.  Sometimes accepting reality feels like giving up!   Please be especially nice to yourself during this time.  


Thanks Kim. I agree, you cannot throw people out of your heart, but I know a lot of women (me at one time) who could benefit a great deal from throwing someone out of their lives. The heart is more durable.


"The heart is more durable."  Thanks Meredith!


I've been turning this over in my mind, and this really helps.


This is really great, thank you.

It's not something that gets addressed very much but something I consider from time to time. 

Tough stuff to work with. 

Well said...

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