Waiting for Someone Else to Change
We live in a world of relationships in which we are always asking for things and giving things, more of one and less of the other depending on who the 'other' is in our life. With some it is very easy to be generous, tolerant, and forgiving—to create leeway in our hearts for them to make mistakes or to do things that we would rather not have them do. We find a space within ourselves in which we can accept them as they are.
With others, their trespassing across a line of behavior, word, or thought—a line that we have drawn inwardly and often outwardly—causes a prickliness in us and a feeling of being easily wounded—a feeling of finding certain behaviors intolerable or of needing to run away because we feel disappointed or hurt. Then, in our hearts and often outwardly, we ask that they be different so that we know how to be with them and so that our relationship can continue without so much difficulty.
There is a lot of pain in wanting others to be different. There is the pain of feeling dependent upon someone who is not dependable. There is the pain of feeling helpless to create the change that we desire. And most of all, there is the pain of feeling locked-in to our own responses so that we cannot react differently. For if we could react differently, then the behavior of another would not be a source of concern to us.
This mix of different kinds of distress can be acute or it can be longstanding, sometimes lasting for years or even for a lifetime. There is often a yearning to be free of the entire situation and an inability to know how. In the corner of our awareness we know that more love and tolerance is needed, but have difficulty finding these, despite our knowledge.
There is a bridge that it is possible to build that opens up greater love—a bridge built out of a truth we can recognize that enables us to be free. It is a bridge of compassion that is composed of two things: on the one side, the recognition that the 'other' is doing the best that they can, all of the time, given the limitations that they face within themselves.
These limitations are part of their inheritance—part of the burden that they carry through life, and they can only be put down when they are ready to be put down. Recognition that another is doing the best that they can defines one aspect of the bridge to greater love.
The other side of this bridge is defined by knowledge concerning ourselves. In a deep way, it involves knowing that we are alright and can feel whole no matter what anyone else says or does. This knowledge of our capacity for wholeness and the feeling that our life is not dependent upon anyone else's unique response, cannot be simply a thought that we tell ourselves. It must be an experience of inner integrity which allows us to absorb the limitation of the world and of others, without having to have the world change for our benefit.
Such an experience of inner wholeness and love is the goal of a spiritual life. We already have this knowledge within us, for the wholeness that we seek is already there. It is a matter of finding it again. The finding of it allows us to recognize a choice that we have, and we make it all of the time: to recognize that unconsciousness is part of the way of the world at this time and we can react to it with disappointment or disapproval, or, we can focus on our own inner path to the things we seek, so that we become an agent of healing for the world, rather than a disappointed lover.
To let go of having to have another change is no small thing. It is huge in its implications. It is even revolutionary, for it can change our entire life. Yet, it is built on a capacity for greater love that we must seek within ourselves in order to find it. Such seeking opens up the way to a life in which the source of love can increasingly be felt within us, and the wellspring of disappointment can dry up.
The letting go of the sense of needing another to be different for us may not disappear in a moment, a day, a week, a year, or even longer - and yet it can. It can disappear in an instant because it involves a simple shift in perspectives, a shift into a perspective of knowing that no matter what anyone else says or does, that we remain whole and ourselves, with the capacity to let go of the clinging that has made life painful.
This clinging, which we would so much rather do without, may ultimately be the agent which produces great benefits for us if we become aware of it in a deeper way. For it can lead us to the path of becoming responsible for our own inner growth, and it can lead us to the recognition that we become free by letting others be free to be themselves as well. In this way, we gently move toward an inner capacity to live a life that is wholly based in love, not because of what others give to us or do not give, but because of what we feel capable of giving to the world.