Loving Indifference: Are you Intervening or Interfering?
"If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off."
You may have had the experience of going out of your way to help someone, only to have that same person later turn against you. Their criticisms or lies can burn like hot pokers thrust into your heart.
In all probability, you lock the hurt away and try to uncomfortably avoid the person. After all, you don't want any "bad karma" and you are supposed to be seeking "good vibrations." But let me assure you, once this energy is created in your mind, it must be applied somewhere. If the above is your way of dealing with people, then this suppressed energy can affect your health; specifically your heart and circulation system. Also your thyroid or pancreas become hyper- or hypo-active, with depression as the result.
So where does this leave you? Is it not right to be your brother's keeper and do good works? The answer is emphatically yes! But there are rules, one of which is to initially ask yourself: "Am I intervening or interfering?" In cases of emergencies, where someone needs help, you should immediately give it. Saying, "I don't want to get involved," is karmically disastrous.
But let's say you're an employer of a large printing plant. Joe, who is about sixty years old, and has been with you since you started your company twenty years ago, has just run a job backwards through the printing press, and cost you ten thousand dollars. Okay, mistakes happen. You take the loss. But the next day, Joe does it again and runs the job backwards.
Any other employee would have been fired immediately after the first ten thousand dollar loss. However, because you feel a sense of loyalty to Joe, who has only a few years to retirement, and who hasn't been wise with his money (and you know his wife would be devastated), you don't fire him. The other employees are now questioning your actions. Joe has cost you $20,000 and you've not reacted as they expected. This could be taken as a signal that you don't care about workmanship and that it's okay to be sloppy or careless.
The next day after clean up and a new set up, Joe runs the job a third time and--you guessed it--he puts it through backwards again. Another $10,000 down the drain. Your blood boils with anger. How could he be so stupid? You become cynical for a moment and begin to think he is wilfully attempting to sabotage you.
You have tried to be your brother's keeper, yet he shows you by his actions that he is incompetent. He has become a threat to you, your company, and your authority over the other employees. So now Joe must be fired. Still your heart goes out to him. You give him six months' salary and let him keep the company car. A small early-retirement office party takes place to honour him.
Again, you are interfering in his life, by attempting to make his transition as painless as possible. Joe has cost you $30,000 in losses, and half a year's salary; a total of about $60,000. You would expect Joe and his wife to think highly of you, after your generosity and caring. You also expect Joe to be undesirable as a candidate for employment, because of his age, and you imagine him reluctantly walking into his golden years of retirement. You feel sorry for him, thinking his life is over.
After Joe collects his regular salary, plus six months' severance pay, plus his paid-up pension, he walks down the street and gets a job with your competition. Within a few weeks, some of your small accounts suddenly move over to your competition. You realize, with a burning feeling, that Joe has been talking.
Have you been a fool through your generosity and compassion? No, not really; but you have broken a few rules. First, you stepped over the man's boundaries of intervening in the man's life and actually interfered with his karma. By doing so, you inadvertently accepted some of his karma of failure. You put yourself between the lesson Joe was trying to teach himself and the realities of the experience. In short, you tried to act as a buffer. Instead of Joe feeling the pain and anger of the situation he caused, you stepped in and accepted it for him. By your well-intended interfering, you may have prevented Joe from learning an important lesson.
You, as captain of the ship, did not fulfill your responsibility. That is, when a few holes are found in the ship, you have to plug them right away. When the ship is in trouble, it is your duty and responsibility to throw the least valuable cargo over the side. Instead, you made another's problem your problem. Before protecting someone, ask, "Am I preventing him from getting to where he is supposed to go?"
If the answer is "yes," the solution is to practice loving indifference. This allows you to be compassionate to another's suffering, yet frees you to understand that, as much as you care for the person, God also cares.
God's pure love is so great that God allows us to suffer by our own hand, so that we might find our true inner way.
In the future, when you perceive someone headed for a fall, you may have to be patient and silently indifferent. You cannot interfere in another's growth or free will. It is like watching a child fall and skin their knees, as they learn to walk, and then be there to help them up.
Ask yourself, "Who wins, who loses? Am I intervening or interfering?"
When a friend or family member insists by their actions in being obnoxious and you realize the relationship is coming to an end, don't grieve or worry. Simply understand that, as you grow, others may not grow with you. All things come to pass, and each relationship has a beginning and an end. Be wise enough to know that it's over. You can realize this, if you have a feeling of neutrality, which means no unfinished business is left. With this feeling of peace, you can get on with the rest of your life, without regret or doubt.
Remember: help where you can, but don't take someone else's karma and load it on your back. After all, if you are alive in this world, you've got your own load to carry. Sometimes saying "no" or not allowing yourself to be taken advantage of--or even facing the fear you are offending someone--can be your karmic lesson!
Nice guys can finish ahead of the pack, with peace in their heart as their prize.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 1988 issue of Body Mind & Spirit magazine.