Q&A: How to be open without getting hurt

The following Q&A was transcribed from a question asked by a student to Lama Lakshyong.


I used to be a kind and open person, but recently I met some very unkind people. I was kind to them, but they were not kind to me and I was hurt. Then I try to protect myself. Finally I find that I closed my heart to people. My question is: how to protect ourselves from being hurt by unkind people, but still keep this openness without closing our heart?

Answer by Lama Lakshyong:

Right, okay. So unfortunately in this world these things do happen. Everybody has their habits and we can’t control what everybody else does. And as Rinpoche sometimes says, it’s just the way things are, these things will happen to us. So what will help is if we let go of our expectations. Many of the hurt comes because we have expectations of the other person. So when those expectations aren’t realized or promises aren’t fulfilled, we feel hurt. But if we can we act out of love, just out of love, not because we want something back. If it comes back, wonderful, but if it doesn’t come back, if we’ve really done that we’ve done it out of love and kindness, then that’s what we’ve done, what they do afterwards is their business. We can’t really change it.

And of course that doesn’t just mean that we are without any wisdom and we don’t do things. We can still be aware of people’s habits. Certain people, you become aware of their habits. You love them but also be aware that they might fall back into their habits again and do the same thing again.

Maybe sometimes it’s like when we give money to beggars, there’s some beggars that are very happy and very content. Thank you so much. But there’s the other beggars that you give them some money and they’re looking at your wallet for some more money. So if we go with the attitude that I want to give the money so that the beggar must be very happy and grateful, maybe we’re going to be disappointed. But if we just say I’m going to give and you give irrespective of what their attitude is, this is sometimes the best.

And naturally also I mean I know for myself if I give to beggars and they are grateful, I’m very willing to give again. But if they’re not or if they have a funny attitude maybe I’m not so willing to give again. So just also realize this for other people as well, be aware of their habits, but what you do, do the best with love and kindness because this is what you do.

And if you can, also, if people are like this, try and give even a greater feeling of love and kindness for them. Because if this is how they treat you, maybe they treat other people like this as well. In fact, they can’t control their emotions, so they might be very unhappy people.

I often think of some advice received from Rinpoche. The once, you know, we have different cultures, and I was brought up that whatever was put on my plate, I have to finish. And if I don’t finish this, then there was a lot of scolding. And then I go into a different culture, and what they do is they give me more food as soon as I’m finished. Because they’re being very kind. But I feel that I have to eat everything, because I can’t waste. So I think I must eat more to make them happy for love and kindness. And they’re thinking my goodness, this person can really eat a lot of food.

But also what happens is I become a little bit unhappy, because I feel very uncomfortable. So one day I asked Rinpoche, I said, Rinpoche, what must I do? You know, I take what the people are giving me, because I want to make them happy. But I’m unhappy, and I’m uncomfortable. Rinpoche said you stop eating. So I asked why? Rinpoche said, because your love and kindness are already gone.

So you do what you can with love and kindness but as soon as you feel that maybe this love and kindness is disappearing, then maybe reassess, do I continue or not?

And also I think sometimes it’s good to have forgiveness because sometimes there are many conditions involved. Sometimes we don’t understand what has happened with the person. Maybe they were having a terrible day. So there can be so many things that influence it. So it’s also very good to try and maintain a mind of forgiveness. Doesn’t mean that you have to go and do it again with them and again and again. But most important — forgive, let it go, maintain and wish for love and kindness and happiness for them still.

We can see this sometimes in families as well. Who are the people that we shout at and we fight with the most? The people we love the most. What happens is going through the day, this happens, it’s uncomfortable; and that happens, it’s uncomfortable; this is awkward. But we don’t do anything. But as soon as we get home, what happens, one person says something and it all comes out. So sometimes we must just realize it’s not us, what’s happened is that now they suddenly relax, and it’s just them, they’ve had a difficult day. But as best as we can practice love and kindness, do it as best as we can without conditions, and the more and more we practice the better and better we get at it. And then also the people around us feel that, and they also feel much better and more comfortable around us.

But we do need to practice it in the beginning. We’ve practiced these unhappy thoughts, these downgrading thoughts, these devaluing thoughts we were so good at it. Now we must let that go, and start practicing love and kindness, and we will get better at it. So really what we practice, we become better at. So if we continue these negative thoughts and these unhappy thoughts, it becomes easier and easier to think about them and eventually these become your great friends, but you are just unhappy.

But if we watch our mind and we practice loving kindness more and more and more, this becomes much easier as well. Then our life is full of happiness and joy, we ourselves are full of happiness and joy, our actions, our speech are full of happiness and joy and love. And then we become a light, a lamp that shines and lights up our own way and shines a light on the path for other people also. We inherently have this kindness and love. It doesn’t have to come from other people. We can practice kindness whether others accept it or not. Of course, it is nice when people appreciate one’s kindness, but don’t expect it.