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Honoring another’s dignity—not judging!

By Michael Ketterhagen, PhD

“What does it mean to honor someone we don’t like?” -Mary Ketterhagen


During our morning conversation, Mary asked that question. She immediately answered it question with another: “How do we continue to honor those we are staying away from during this isolation, “stay at home,” time?

Before I could say a word, Mary continued: “It means respecting their dignity. And, of course, that is totally an internal exercise because we don’t have enough time to spend with others now.”

She was referring to a person that she periodically would help out and find really annoying. “You know, when I spend an extended period of time with her, I really don’t get so upset with her. I begin to like her again.”

Then our “discussion” went back to the initial problem that she was trying to solve for herself: “How do we continue honoring those we have to stay away from?”

The Yoga Tradition gives us an answer to this dilemma. It says that we are not really our actions or our words or the physical and mental parts of us. We are spiritual beings that have been trained to think critically about those people and situations that are unpleasant to us. We are also trained to like certain people and situations because they are pleasing to us.

All the time we are focused on the “outside dimensions” of a person, not their core Self. Yoga would say that every time we make a judgment about another person, whether it is positive or negative, it is violating their dignity as a divine being (atman) in physical and mental coverings (koshas).

It is also not thinking or acting in accordance with Truth. Instead of saying, “He’s a jerk” or “He’s wonderful,” the truth is “That person’s actions or thoughts are pleasant or unpleasant to us.” A truthful statement would be something like “I feel irritated with you because you are not doing what I want you to do.” Or “I enjoy being around you because I like how you look.”

Mary is right when she said that “this is a totally internal exercise.” Amen! That is what our spiritual work is during this pandemic. We have the opportunity to seek the truth inside of ourselves and not let our judgments inflict abuse on ourselves or those around us or those from whom we have to stay away or those we don’t like.

What a wonderful time for our spiritual growth! Namaste’

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