One of the meditation books I am using right now has a message about the saying “Live and let live”. It is a good one for me as I am spending time with family members and meeting new people. At first glance, the phrase sounds void of emotion, loaded with indifference, something you would apply to the eccentric old guy down the block instead of loved ones.
Upon reflection, I have to admit that when I have “cared” about the way others live their lives, it often expresses itself in discontent and in criticism. Discontent…a sort of discomfort when I am in the presence of a lifestyle foreign or distasteful to me. I have to be honest and admit that how another person eats or finds enjoyment, how they dress or the way they keep their environment, the choices of friends they keep…these are about them and if I am in their presence, I should not expect them to change for me. Nor should I assume that the lifestyle choices I make are in some way superior to their choices. I needn’t wallow in discontent…I can adjust my attitude. I can accept them as they are and watch the way they live with interest and curiosity, not judgment. If I am open, I can even learn from them new ways of being in the world.
As for criticism, I do not have to verbalize negative thoughts about others whether to them or to others when they are not around. I try to remember the story of the weeds in the bible. Jesus told his friends that pulling out the weeds in a field can result in pulling out the good plants as well. I try to make a point of “watering the good seeds”, that is, giving voice to the good I see in people’s lives and not worry about the bad. Calling behaviors bad or good is a judgment on my part, after all. Most behaviors that I see in others are not good or bad; I just perceive them that way. I may think that something someone does is counterproductive or unhealthy, but it isn’t my place to go around putting moral labels on things.
What I have written here does not necessarily apply when I see harm being done. How to deal with those situations may or may not require that I speak up. Prayer is one action that I can always take…and wisdom helps me to know what to do.