This is definitely a difficult one, because when there are people we don’t like, we usually have a reason for not liking them. As a result, it can be hard to see past that reason and adopt a more patient and tolerant attitude towards our enemies.
But I think this teaching is tied into the acceptance of our own faults (Song 16), as well as the idea of being compassionate to others (Song 4). If we can embrace our own flaws, then I think it’s much easier to embrace other people’s flaws.
We have seen how suffering is something that’s universal, and if we employ empathy (Song 9), then we can step into the shoes of our enemy and see that they might only be acting as they are because of a personal struggle they’re going through.
There are lots of references in Buddhism to forgiveness. It is important, for our own mental clarity and peace, to forgive others for their wrong actions.
This is a really thorny issue, and I still personally feel like some things are simply too awful to forgive. But there’s a great quote from the Dalai Lama that says:
“Practicing forgiveness does not mean accepting wrongdoing”
I think this makes it easier to accept this principle of tolerance, because it is not entailing that we sanction the person's wrongdoing. Instead it is about letting go of that reason we have to view that person as our enemy - not for their sake, but for our sake, because it will lead to a healthier state of mind if we can let it go.
Once we forgive our enemies, according to the Dalai Lama, we can then see any instances where they might frustrate us or antagonise us as opportunities to practice patience and tolerance.
This seems like a crazy way of thinking, because to see our enemies in this way is to be thankful that they are there, so that we can practice these virtues. Was Luke Skywalker really thankful for Darth Vader’s presence? I bet Tony Stark wasn’t too grateful to have Thanos as his enemy…
But while it might sound ludicrous, it is undoubtedly a great way to move an otherwise negative situation into a positive light. Also, if we stop viewing these people as our enemies, then it will be easier to maintain a universal feeling of compassion.
“And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off”
Today’s song is clearly going to require a very in-depth analysis into the layers of meaning, subtly laced into the fabric of the repeated lyrics…
I’m kidding of course! This is a straightforward, guilty-pleasure song about brushing off your haters and staying true to yourself. There are some meditative techniques that literally involve shaking your hands by your side, and imagining you are shaking off negative energy. Is Taylor Swift a guided meditator in disguise…?
“But I keep cruisin'
Can't stop, won't stop movin'
It's like I got this music in my mind
Saying it's gonna be alright”
It’s a great song, because it’s all about positive energy, and not letting any negativity from outside sources drag you down. I recently saw this really good quote, taken from Deepak Chopra’s book, Metahuman:
“It took me a while to see that my critics were my teachers constantly reminding me of my addiction to approval. Today I’m grateful for their presence in my life. They taught me the meaning of freedom”
This links to the Dalai Lama’s idea about being grateful for our enemies, because they offer us opportunities to become better and happier people. I love this Deepak Chopra quote, and I know that I personally hate the feeling of being criticised, especially if you think you’ve done a good job of something.
“I stay out too late
Got nothing in my brain
That's what people say, mmm, mmm”
But it’s true that this is only because I care too much about what other people think of me. And like Chopra says, having critics is a great way to have this constant reminder that I do over-stress about what other people think, and that I should instead not act with the intention of gaining approval, because this is never going to be something in my control, anyway.
“I never miss a beat
I'm lightning on my feet
And that's what they don’t see”
Taylor Swift switches from talking about what other people say about her, to proudly stating what she’s actually like, and this is the kind of positivity that the Dalai Lama is trying to instil through his teaching.
We should be proud of who we are, regardless of what other people think. And the negativity coming from our haters or enemies?
Well, in the wise words of Taylor Swift - just shake it off.