I once listen to a talk by Ajahn Brahm were he told the story of a funeral at which the man’s wife was talking. She told how when he was at school and there were arguments in the class the teacher got all the kids to take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. They were told to put everything they disliked about their enemies in call in one column. When they had done this they had to write a list of all the good things about that person on the other side. They then had to cut it in 2 and drop the dislikes into a bin. The like’s side was handed to the one that they had been arguing with. The wife pulled out this piece of paper that the man had carried for 40 years – then several other class mates who were at the funeral did the same thing.
I work with someone who I have yet to find anyone who likes her – we were having conflicts. Because this was affecting what I am trying to do with my practice, I took the idea from the talk and used it to help me.
The dislike/bad column was so easy to write – lots of material. The second column was much harder.
Afterward I took the first column and examined it carefully and looked to see if any of the faults were present in me. I found that the easiest faults to find in other people are those that we have in ourselves. One of the reasons why we have aversions to some people is that there faults cause us to be embarrassed – mirrors don’t always show us what we want to see. Retaking precepts afterwards maybe a good idea.
I took the second column and examined it to see what was there that I could also identify in myself. Often we are as reluctant to see what is good in us as we are to see the bad. This became my metta list. Starting with myself and working towards the “bad person“ I used this list to assist my metta practice. By the time I got to the bad person I also had to add “helping me with my development” to the list. From that point it becomes easier to generalise the metta to all people because if you can find good in you enemies then you realise that there must be good in every one.
The unexpected outcome of this was that the level of conflict declined and I was better able to maintain some level of equanimity when conflict did arise. I suspect that I had a larger role in the conflict that I had thought. This person no longer causes me to suffer because the ways I respond to her actions have changed. I now find ways of working close to that person because she helps my development. Shhh don’t tell her, she would be upset.
Maybe you can get something out of this for yourself.