What is the ‘tipping point’ that can cause a small lovers’ tiff to escalate into a huge no-holds-barred argument? There are two little words which cause more damage than most – and neither of them is an expletive. I am thinking of ‘never’ and ‘always.’
As in: “You never listen to me properly!” (Bet she has, at least once.) “You’re always rude to my friends.” (Bet he is polite, now and again.) In short, the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that ‘always’ and ‘never’ are almost always never true.
Might it be time to ban these two words from your arguments? And while you’re at it, ban them from your negative self-talk too. Why do I ‘always’ screw up? (Bet you sometimes succeed.) How come I ‘never’ meet my deadlines? (Reckon you have done once in a while.)
Remember: “Failure is something I sometimes do, not something I always am.”
As well as ‘never’ and ‘always’, we also often hear: ‘every time’, ‘as usual’ and ‘there you go again’ when tempers flare. All these exaggerations, whether addressed to ourselves or our loved ones create a gospel of despair; a litany of hopelessness, a place where we lock people up and deny their potential to change.
Buddhists also delete expressions like ‘he’s a complete tosser’ from their vocabulary, believing (perhaps through gritted teeth at first) that he’s essentially a Buddha, though he may well be behaving like a tosser at the moment (in your opinion.) As Nichiren says: “Even a heartless villain loves his wife and children. He too has a portion of the Bodhisattva world within him.”
Buddhism encourages us to focus on our Buddhahood, on our most positive potential, whatever is happening in our life. To focus on the lotus flower rather than on the muddy pond in which it grows. To see ourselves and other people as ‘magnificent works in progress’ (more on this another time…)
That’s why you’re unlikely to hear a Buddhist who stopped drinking five years ago say: “My name is John and I’m an alcoholic.” He’s much more likely to say, “My name is John and I’m a Buddha who once tried to change his feelings by drinking too much.”
So, take a look at the ways you talk to yourself and others and if the language you’re using isn’t helping you any more, it’s time to ditch the draining words and lose the limiting labels. You might even make the world around you a better place along the way. Try it. It works. It sometimes takes time, but it works. Always.