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?

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