The Ball’s in Your Court: There Are No Victims

There’s a true story about a revered Tibetan lama who’d been held in prison for many years by the Chinese Communists. Some time after his release, he met with the Dalai Lama, who asked him, “Being a prisoner for all those years must have been difficult. Were you ever afraid?”

“Oh, yes,” the lama replied. “There were times when this situation was very dangerous.”

“Are you saying you were afraid the guards might kill you?”

“No,” he explained. “It was dangerous because at times I came very close to losing my compassion for them.”

Kim is an attorney in a San Francisco-based law firm. The manager in her department has not treated her, or several of her co-workers, with respect. Her standing up to him by notifying the firm’s Human Resources Department only added fuel to the fire of his harassing behavior. Kim would be demoted, he told her. She would be reporting to someone else, as he would no longer be acting as her manager. This meant she’d have more responsibility along with a pay cut. His treatment of these employees is currently under investigation, one that might take a long time to complete fully.

Much like the lama’s story above, Kim had the spiritual integrity to realize that (1) even though she was being treated poorly, she wasn’t a victim in this situation; and (2) her sense of victory was defined by her attitude, not by any outer circumstances.

To explain the first point further: playing the role of victim means that we hand over the respon- sibility of our well-being to another. Hence the title of this blog, “The Ball’s in Your Court,” meaning the accountability for your well-being belongs to you, and to you alone. No one can take it from you, unless you willingly relinquish it.

The second point is also an important one and complementary to the first. In Kim’s situation, her victory is expressed through her ability to get up, get dressed, get out the door every morning, and drive herself to a job that has become less than thankless. As others in managerial positions at the firm have observed, Kim’s job performance continues to be stellar. She’s bright, innovative, and not afraid to shoulder the work load of several people. Despite having a boss who demeans and minimizes her efforts, she remains untouched by his criticisms that reign down without relent – clearly creating a work environment that leaves much to be desired!

There’s a third point to consider as well. No matter how poorly Kim has been treated by this person – whom she suspects had a very difficult childhood and thus lacked healthy role models in how to treat others – she has held fast to her compassion toward him. Much like the stalwart lama who was imprisoned for years but whose spirit remained untouched and free.

Where is this situation going for Kim? We’ll have to see. But for her, inwardly, the battle is already won.

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