Spiritual Self Violence


A few years before children and my beloved minivan, I sit behind the wheel of my red Acura TSX in a line of cars waiting to enter a parking garage.
Yet another opportunity to practice patience.
Soon enough, I am next to the man in the booth.
“$10,” he says.
I give him a twenty and an “I thank you.”
He adds my money to the large stack of bills in his hand. I wonder how it feels to hold that wad of cash. He hands me a ten and a receipt and presses the button to lift the gate.
Before I press the gas, I notice the sign behind him.
“Hey, I’m not going to be here longer than an hour,” I say.
His gaze is fixed off towards the distance. Silence. He says nothing.
I try a more direct approach: “Can I get the $2 back? I’m not going to be here longer than an hour.”
“You didn’t tell me,” he says sharply.
I counter, “I’m telling you now.”
“You didn’t tell me when you came. No refund.”
He points to the sticker on his booth: NO REFUNDS GIVEN.
“Come on,” I say. And I wait.
He is better at this game than I am.
The car behind me, seeing that no transaction is happening and that the gate has already lifted, gives a polite honk.
“I’d like your supervisor’s number,” I say.
Nothing. He is stone-faced. He knows that I’m probably not going to spend the time to call, even if he gives me the right number.
A chorus of beeps and a shout come from behind me.
“Asshole,” I say, as I punch the gas and leave to find a parking spot.
I chastise myself for losing my cool, remind myself that I am human, and then chastise myself again for not being able to just let it go. It’s just $2. And my outrage seems ridiculous. After all, I had just given $5 to a woman standing on the freeway off-ramp.
A phone call to Marla (ROTB’s longest-serving board member) sets me straight. She says, “You have every right to be angry. You were ripped off.”
And that’s when I realize it: telling myself that I shouldn’t be upset when I am upset does not help.
In fact, it makes it worse.
I would be horrified to hear a parent tell their upset child “Just get over it.”
Yet I do that to myself.
It is spiritual-religious self violence.
Do you also tell yourself that you don’t have the right to be upset when you are upset?
What if, instead, we trained ourselves on compassionate self-talk?
What if the self-castigating voice in our heads was tempered by another voice, a softer, gentler one telling us that it is all right for us to feel exactly as we feel?
Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer resides in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder and head of Religion-Outside-The-Box oldrotb.wpengine.com, an internet-based, global group of 3.3K+ digital-age seekers. ROTB produces excellent spiritual content.

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