August 3, 2023

“The rock in the surf”

Surviving rumors, slander and prejudice: Building True Friendship and Trust through Wise Living – Hope and Strength in the Storms of Life.

In a distant valley lived the monk Sariputra, who was respected and admired by many. But there was a person in the village who spread stories about Sariputra out of jealousy.

The stories spread quickly, and soon many villagers came to Sariputra to learn the truth. What they had heard did not match how they knew him. They were concerned, unsettled and demanded clarification. A few even turned away from him without saying a word or even asking him for clarification.

Sariputra invited the people who still came to him to a large rock on the riverbank, which was repeatedly washed by the waves. There he said to them, “Look at this rock. For centuries it has been touched by the waves, but it remains firm and unshakable. The waves are like the stories you have heard. They can touch the surface, but they do not change what is inside.” “And how can we know what is inside, Revered Master?” asked one of the crowd. Sariputra replied, “Those who really know me know what is inside me. They are able to see what the waves are that come and go, but the truth remains constant like this rock.”

Some understood Sariputra’s words and stood firmly by his side.
Others, on the other hand, initially remained uncertain.

Sariputra then taught those who stayed with him that trust is like a tree that is deeply rooted and firmly planted in the ground. “Even if the storm comes and pulls the branches, the tree stays firm because its roots are deep,” he said.

Sariputra remained who he was and in time the remaining unsettled ones also realized the truth.
People saw that Sariputra continued to be the same person they had known for years.
Some who had left him returned, others did not.

One day a traveler came to the valley and he also heard the stories about Sariputra. Seeing how many people surrounded Sariputra, he came forward with a questioning look and a doubting heart and spoke: “Venerable master, how do you meet those who do not know you and have already heard the dull words? How can I see the truth when the stories have already touched me and yet I do not know you?”

Sariputra smiled and led the traveler to a pond with dirt floating on its surface. He handed the traveler a cup and gently said, “Draw water from this pond and watch carefully.”

The traveler did as he was told and discovered that the water in the cup was clear and pure, despite the dirt on the surface.

Sariputra said, “Some stories are like the dirt on the surface of the water. But those who have the courage to look deeper and seek the true path will see the clear truth that is always there.”

The traveler humbly bowed his head, then spoke in a gentle voice: “Venerable Master, I thank you. But another question occupies my mind: how do you face the pain when people turn away from you and do not return, as I too once experienced?”

Sariputra looked at the traveler and pointed to a nearby tree whose leaves were rustling in the wind and explained, “Look at the tree and its leaves. When a strong wind blows, some leaves will hold on, while others will let go and be carried away with the wind. The leaves that come loose do so not out of malice or ignorance, but because the grip of the wind is stronger than their hold on the branch.”

He looked the traveler in the eye and continued, “It is the same with people who turn away. Often they are like the leaves that come loose in the strong wind. Their letting go is not a conscious decision against us. They are merely unable to resist the overwhelming pressure. We need to meet them with compassion and understanding, because just like the leaves that come loose in the wind, they are affected by circumstances without having control over them. Let’s work to make our own faith and trust strong enough to withstand the storms, and let’s have compassion for those who disengage. Their path and pain is no easier than ours.”

This story shows that the truth is firm and unchanging, even when it is washed by the waves of rumors or stories. It reminds us that true friendship and trust are like deep-rooted trees that can withstand the storms of life and only become more deeply rooted in the process. It can be painful when people abandon us, but those who stay show the power of genuine connection and trust.
And those who, in spite of all they have heard, are new to it and remain open, show true greatness.

My own experience with the subject of rumor mongering and slander:

For the last 20 months, I have been allowed to experience things being claimed about me with increasing intensity. At first they were rumors. Twisted facts. Then I was accused of lying. And at some point it degenerated into slander. At the beginning in a small circle with increasing intensity and meanwhile also friends on my social media profiles were contacted.

When this all started back then, I found the story about the serenity of the warrior very helpful.
It gave me peace and strength.

Some friends came to me, unsettled by what they had heard. Asked me for my perspective. In the end, I have always trusted that those who really know me will know the truth.

I won’t go into detail about the “what” … it doesn’t matter.
Whoever hears about it can think about whether it fits the way they know me and, if in doubt, ask me for my perspective if they really thinks it’s necessary to spend lifetime on the subject and to burden themselfs or me with it, and then make their own mind. If you don’t know anything about the subject, you don’t need to ask me. Far be it from me to do laundry.

I’ve been thinking for a long time whether or not to write anything at all about this.
However, recently a friend came to me who had witnessed this entire situation and asked me how I managed to deal with it all. Unfortunately, he is currently experiencing a similar situation. Rumors are spread, untruths / slander spread.

The purpose of this article is to hopefully shine a light in the darkness for other people who are experiencing the same thing and whose environment is also being turned against them by slander, to give them a glimmer of hope, to help build trust and to show a possible way of dealing with such a situation.

Was I afraid that I would not be believed?

Initially, yes, definitely. What’s fascinating, though, is that the situation initially drove me to such desperation that at some point I was at the point of “Believe what you believe. You should know me.” and was ready to let everyone go. Letting go was the key.

Did I feel the need to justify myself against the slander once or twice?

Absolutely. But honestly, would it have changed anything for the people around me?
If you are slandered and in the same breath portrayed as a liar, you can say as much as you want – how would people know if what you said was true if your credibility was already in doubt anyway? Either way, these people must ultimately decide for themselves what they believe. And I told them so. Meanwhile, I just continue to be who I’ve always been.

Others turned temporarily against me, attacked me partly crudely verbally.
I could meet those with understanding by putting myself in their position. “How would I probably have reacted in their place if I had heard such things?”. So I could understand very well that some of the things they were told really stirred them up. And caused a lot of pain on them. I listened to them and understood their point of view, their pain. This understanding opened the space for dialogue.

Did I feel the need to defend myself or fight back at one time or another?

Indeed. But what is the point?
Responding to war with war has so far brought the world only one thing – more war, suffering, injuries and deaths.

There was a situation where I had to get a lawyer involved. While I already needed to have him, I had him set up a cease and desist letter… and then decided not to pursue this further as the person claimed to show discernment. And what good is a cease-and-desist letter for in the end if the person only becomes more adept at not naming names directly or not posting with their own profile afterwards? The Internet makes it easy today. (But hey, posting pictures of me is clever, of course). I could take legal action against the person at any time. I would have enough in my hand. But what’s the point in the end? I would water the wrong tree. I would end up directing my energy in the wrong and a destructive direction. The things you give attention and energy to, you only get more of – and in the worst case, you even become them. Who would it make me? Would I still be just as full of life and ready to help? Or would it be overshadowed by the destructive energy? Would I become bitter? Would lose my trust in other people? Would become distrusting?

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

Friedrich Nietzsche

At the same time, I can only use every minute of my life once and I won’t get it back.

Even if I would have preferred to do without this experience, I am deeply grateful for what it taught me.
As someone said so well “Conflict and pain are the greatest teachers” (author unknown).

Am I afraid that the person will start another escalation level because of this post?

I have no influence on what someone does or does not do.
Either way, there is no security in life. Anything or nothing can happen at any time.
I only have an impact on how I respond when something comes to me.

No matter what I have done or said, so far it has always been turned around. Even some of my articles that have nothing to do with the person were perceived and turned around like I was “victim-blaming” or “side-posting” (Whatever that is supposed to be) or something.

What should I do? Write nothing at all? Disappear?

Again, I only have an impact on how I respond when something comes to me.

Who knows what it’s good for, what’s coming?
Good or bad, who knows?

For which I am grateful:

  1. Through the situation I have found my primal trust
    The primal trust in the people around me.
    The primal trust that the truth will always come to light in the end.
    The primal trust that everyone will eventually show their true colors and everyone will see it, even if they were initially blinded.
  2. The situation has given me many opportunities to reflect on myself and get to know myself better. Who I am and who I am not. Who I want to be and who I don’t want to be. I have been to the Zen Retreat Center several times and since then I rest even more within myself.
    The situation taught me resilience.
  3. I can ask people for help again. I have received a lot of support.
    I used to try to solve all my problems on my own, but when I was confronted with a level of escalation that was really unexpected and brutal for me, it pulled the rug out from under me so much that I actually asked my parents and friends for help for the first time in years.
  4. The situation suddenly improved my relationship with my parents (I had been rather reserved the years before), and it allowed me to spend even more time with them in the last months before my mother’s unexpected death with a much better rapport than I probably would have had without it.
  5. All of my relationships and friendships have not only survived the storm, but are more firmly rooted than I ever thought possible.
  6. Many things, situations and challenges that used to scare me and that I used to worry about have become “small” in comparison. I gained the confidence through this situation to be able to handle storms and that I am able to learn, grow and survive them.

What I have learned

  1. to stay with myself
  2. To be understanding of the people around me, no matter how they react in the first moment
  3. To see every wedge that someone tries to drive between the people who know me and me as a gift.

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