I was thinking about - no, reacting to - our interactions and expectations in relationships. Details not relevant, but basically a person did a thing and it stuck with me and I knew I had to process it. I knew this because my reactions included thoughts like, “Well then I’m not going to give that person this other thing!” And, “Next time I see that person I’m not going to do the thing I usually do … I’ll show them!”
Besides the obvious reactionary and childish-ness of my thoughts, there was a theme: punishment. I was going to in some way “punish” that person for this thing. Huh.
First let me say it took an hour car ride, plus getting ready for bed, plus letting the dogs out, plus realizing I probably needed to meditate for a few instead of taking this negativity to bed before I came to this realization. So, a while. But the thought that came to me almost immediately after my app gave me the starting gong was: “You cannot punish someone for being who they are.” Whoa.
You cannot punish someone for being who they are.
Right. This. And I kid you not, in that moment, I let it go. Not because I’m some self-actualized guru, but because it was so obvious. This person acted in a way that is so authentic, true, consistent, and predictable to their nature that how could I even be surprised let alone upset enough to “punish” them? It’d be like vegetarian-me knowingly going out to dinner with a hunter then wanting to punish them for ordering the steak. Not their fault - they are being true to themselves.
The more I sat with this, the more ridiculous the idea of punishment became to me (it may have helped to have Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee running in the background as I write). First, the object of our punishment has zero clue they did anything “wrong” or even upset us in the first place because they were actually being themselves!! Second, whatever punishment we’ve cooked up is likely something without any connection to what they “did” because they really didn’t do anything. And finally, we are the ones that chose to have this person in our lives.
So basically, I was the nutty one for thinking this person would do anything else but what they did. Because what they did is who they are. Therefore instead of it being up to me to punish them, it was up to me to see this as just an observation of honesty. If I were writing their character on a show, this is exactly what they would do given the situation.
I slept great. I let this person be who they are and I watched this idea of punishment dissipate into nothing. Later I applied these thoughts to all kinds of other situations: people I work with, people I just interact with at a store, say, or people in my small circle of good friends. Each time I repeated my new idea and it felt freeing. You cannot punish people for being who they are.