“All relationship is a mirror to the self. Those whom you are deeply attracted to or repelled by are both mirrors of you. You are attracted to those in whom you find traits that you already have but want more of, and you are repelled by those in whom you find traits that you deny in yourself.”Deepak Chopra, Power, Freedom, and Grace
I didn’t agree with this when I first read it. I thought about the people who “repel” me, to be polite. No way, I’m not like them. After I continued reading and began thinking about specific traits in people that attract and repel me, I think he’s right.
- What are some of those traits in people that attract me to them? I enjoy being around people who are inquisitive, creative, independent, humble, selfless, positive, and enjoyable.
- Those traits in others that repel me? I loathe people who are judgemental, narrow-minded, critical, elitist, negative, and sour in disposition.
I would like to think that I find some of those positive qualities in myself. I certainly hope that they increase, but I have a hard time confronting those darker qualities in me, “my shadow,” as Chopra calls it. Truthfully, while I have come a long way, I can look back and see many of those darker elements in my life history, and from time to time they try to raise their head and have their way with me again.
How does recognizing these familiar traits in others impact your relationship with them? First of all, it goes a long way to breaking down the walls in “us vs. them.” He may be a sorry, terrible, no good son of a bitch, but he’s really not all that different from me. When I was still pastoring churches, the phrase I used often to keep from judging others was “there for the grace of God go I.” Especially, when I worked with inmates for years in the state prison, I recognized that there was only one wrong decision between where they were and myself. Strangely, I often felt more in common with some of those inmates than the people in the churches that I pastored. That’s the subject for a whole other post, but mostly I identified with the inmates because their weaknesses were on display. There was no pretense about perfection, as there was on Sunday morning at church.
If I recognize those “repulsive” traits in others as being similar to those tendencies in me, I am less likely to judge and more likely to empathize with them. In doing so I come closer to accepting myself with all of my faults and shortcomings. I shared this other quote from Chopra’s book as a comment to a friend’s post earlier today: “Self-acceptance, total self-acceptance, means self-forgiveness. When you forgive yourself and stop judging yourself, then you won’t judge others, and there will be less conflict in the world.”
Now it seems we are digging close to the heart of the matter and must tread softly. Our ego’s are a many fragile thing, to turn a phrase. One of the compulsive reasons we have for judging others is that we do not accept ourselves. Chopra urges us to “embrace your shadow, understand your shadow, forgive your shadow.” I have come to believe that the driving force behind dogmatists that are bent on making everyone agree with them is that they are very insecure and need the agreement of others to reinforce their own shallow ego’s.
If we enlightened moderate types can be honest with ourselves, we too crave the agreement of others. We all need and want affirmation from others. I’d love to have ten comments to this post from people telling me that they relate to what I’m saying and support my opinion, but self-acceptance means that I am at peace within myself whether or not people agree or disagree with me. It means that my self-worth is no longer dependent on winning others over to my side. Dialogue and debate can be good and healthy. There’s nothing wrong with having different opinions, sharing them, or defending them, but there is a huge difference in conceding a point versus picking up a gun and killing your neighbor over it.
The greatest battles today rage inside the heart of man. The secret to peace in the world isn’t that everyone relinquish their positions and embrace uniformity. Perhaps the secret to peace in the world is that we learn to embrace ourselves.