Before you put others in their place, put yourself in their place
When we teach something and find that some people keep objecting, we may feel impelled to speak cuttingly and put them in their place.
However, we will resolve the situation better if we first put ourselves in their place. In the Bhagavad-gita (06.35), Krishna demonstrates such empathy while addressing Arjuna’s concern that the mind is almost impossible to control. Till this point, the sixth chapter has focused on how to control the mind through yoga practice. Krishna could have seen Arjuna’s objection as an impudent challenge to his teaching. Moreover, from Krishna’s perspective, he is omnipotent – controlling the mind is no struggle for him.
Nonetheless, Krishna empathically agrees with Arjuna that the mind is recalcitrant, then assures that the mind can be disciplined by practice and detachment. This assurance is essentially a succinct reiteration of his earlier teaching. Krishna doesn’t dilute his point that controlling the mind is necessary. But by being empathic, he increases Arjuna’s receptivity for accepting that point.
We need to be similarly empathic in understanding others. If we find it difficult to put ourselves in their place, we can ask non-judgmental, open-ended questions to understand where they are coming from. We may discover that things evident to us are elusive for them – they are not troublemakers; they are troubled; they need additional help to understand those things. When we invest the time to understand them, we will better understand how to help them. And seeing that we are willing to understand them, they will become more receptive to understand us.
While sharing spiritual knowledge, we need to be especially empathic because different people may be at widely differing places in their spiritual evolution. When we put ourselves in others’ place, we can help them rise from their place to a more spiritually evolved place.
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