Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cultivating a Thick Skin


They say relationships can take years to build but can be destroyed in a moment of anger.  And from where comes anger?  Emotions.  If you're thin skinned, you get hurt easily.  To protect yourself, you can go into one of these modes: 

Self-pity - you withdraw into your shell, switch off hand phone and cry yourself to sleep. 

Anger - you blow up yourself or somebody else to spend that energy.  Depending on where you are, anger can be more destructive in that it usually involves others, including dumb animals when you kick them (with apologies to some animals).  But some people can retaliate in rather unpredictable ways.  Less cultured ones can douse your fire with some ice-cold water, the more seasoned ones do it with some deftly handled words which can actually save your skin.  The self-pitying ones just fade out of your life unless you grow up suddenly and gain them back with chocolates and roses.  These get costlier every year though.


When asked about how to handle negative emotions such as fear, anger and hate, a wise sage once illustrated with a story:

An old man said to his grandson, "Boy, I have two tigers caged within me. One is love and compassion. The other is fear and anger."

The young boy asked, "Which one will win, grandfather?"

The old man replied, "The one I feed."


So it is.  When you dwell on fear and anger all the time, you are actually feeding that tiger.  It will just keep growing.  You may then have a problem trying to control it, especially if it wants to eat you or your other tiger.  On the other hand, if you keep feeding love and compassion, you'll become a saint.  Whether you get ordained or not is a different matter.  But everybody loves a saint, mostly because they can come in for free services or handouts.  And you're not protected.  You may find it hard to survive this way either.  But it is better than just feeding the other tiger because those who get free handouts need to protect you for their own selfish ends. 


In other words, you need to keep a balance.  That balance will help to keep you alive in this world.  Fear helps you to keep track of where you go, what you do, who you deal with.  Sort of like an alarm that starts beeping whenever there's danger.  Anger stands behind you ready to stand out and defend you by flashing his weapon at those who try to take advantage of you.  The only drawback is you have to keep an eye on both of them.  Otherwise they run out of control - meaning, you get false alarms, or you flash your weapon at the wrong guys and screw up relationships.  Love and compassion helps to keep you and those around you warm and comfortable.  This is much easier once you learn how to do it.  The more you can give the better, because you get more back.  Nice trade, actually.  Wish it's all like that all the time.


Also in other words, to survive to a ripe old age and remain healthy, you have to grow up and cultivate a thick skin.  But just don't forget my other favorite quote:  "No matter how tall your grandfather was, you have to do your own growing up".