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Do No Harm. Take No Shit.

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

I am just going to come right out and say it:

I am a recovering “Yes-Man”.

A rehabbed “Mr. Nice Guy”.

A parolee from “People-Pleaser” prison.

Like many of the Men I work with, I spent a good portion of my life living as a doormat.

Entirely unbeknownst to me.

I avoided conflict like the plague.

I shirked my own desires by prioritizing the desires of others.

I spent years living with a stupified grin plastered across my face while men, women, strangers, family members, girlfriends, coaches, even children berated, belittled, insulted, emasculated, took advantage of, and emotionally abused me.

And for all those years, I sat there and took it.

Like a Man.

Because that’s what I believed a “spiritually evolved man” was supposed to do.

As the son of a psychology-teaching Yogi and Astrology-practicing Actress, I grew up with some ‘normal’ childhood experiences such as playing competitive sports, music lessons, and attending public schools, but also with many more ‘fringe’ experiences like going to new-age churches and Saturday meditation at the Tibetan Shambhala Center. I was raised in a house full of crystals, Angel paintings, and Egyptian artifacts, where full-moon rituals and past-life regressions were regular fare with my Mother, while Indian chants and New Age music shared equal airtime with Motown and the Beatles on my Father’s stereo.

As a kid, my heroes were Mahavatar Babaji, Jesus Christ, Yogananda, & the Buddha.

But Magic Johnson posters also decorated my walls- Magic being about as close to a living Saint-Athlete hybrid as you could get, complete with subsequent controversy and the shocking fall-from-grace concomitant with most modern Gurus….

My parents were obvious hippies, but I know they never intended for nor taught me to be a doormat. Anyone who has met the incarnation of Sekhmet that is my fiercely protective Mother will attest to this fact in full!

It was probably a combination of “nature and nurture”, a balancing response to parental influences, a general misinterpretation of the teachings I was reading, or all of the above- but by the time I was 12, the by-passing had begun:

When I felt anger, I meditated.

When someone said nasty things to me, I meditated.

When I felt rage, sadness, or betrayal, I meditated.

When negative emotions arose, I breathed deep and tried my best to find a smile in the face of darkness, just like my heroes.

Welcome to “Spiritual bypass 101”...

What I did not realize in my youthful naiveté was that my heroes had not achieved enlightenment, abiding non-dual awareness, or “the peace that passeth all understanding” by avoiding or suppressing their negative emotions.

Despite my best intentions, I had made the core error many make on the Spiritual Path:

The error of confusing the difference between TRANSCENDING emotions (acknowledging and moving through sensations) vs. SUPPRESSING emotions (avoiding & poo-pooing them). I “kept my cool” and was “easy going”. But in reality, I people-pleased, Yes-manned, and Mr. Nice-guyed my way through life, believing I was living after the teachings of my heroes.

More often than not, I did not have enough resources to give any away. Rather than admitting this and empowering those around me to find someone who could actually help, I would step in and scrape the bottom of my empty tank to hand them the dregs.

Those who were sensitive enough undoubtedly felt the resentment behind my generosity, well before I became conscious of it myself.

And so, I spent most of my life allowing friends, romantic partners, even family to get away with acting the fool- disrespecting themselves, other people, and myself- all for the sake of keeping the peace, and my false spiritual practice.

I enabled romantic partners to emotionally abuse me.

I enabled close friends to be bad partners, bad friends, and bad parents by refusing to speak up in the moment when I witnessed a behavior I knew was out of character for them.

I inflicted genuine HARM, all-the-while believing I was doing THE RIGHT THING by avoiding conflict.

It kills me to know that every time I refused to stand up to someone who was mistreating me, a person I cared for, or a stranger on the street, I was essentially passing the buck to the next guy to hopefully check that individuals abuse, but with yet another layer of experiential reinforcement from my inaction standing in the way of the behavioral adjustment they so desperately needed.

Today, I understand the effect of this mode of behavior on those closest to me.

Today, I understand the degree to which my unwillingness to tell people the truth or set a boundary undermines their growth.

And mine.

Do no harm, take no shit.

At first glance, these may seem like metrics at the polar opposite ends of a behavioral spectrum. But at closer examination, I have found that they are in fact one-in-the-same.

Taking no shit equals doing no harm.

And doing no harm equals taking no shit.

When you don’t put up a boundary, you are bound to be invaded.

Intentionally or unintentionally.

When you have no borders, how can you blame those who wander into your fields and harvest your bounty?

This is how humans work. We test each other to see what is possible and what we can get away with.

People need to know where your boundaries are.

It’s how we feel safe in the world, and around each other.

It’s how we learn what’s allowed and what’s acceptable.

And what is not.

Allowing someone to take advantage of you without resisting does not make you enlightened, it makes you a doormat.

I will say it again.

Allowing someone to take advantage of you without resisting does not make you enlightened, it makes you a doormat.

There will be times in your life when people will not take “no” for an answer.

There will be times in your life when people will knowingly or unknowingly disrespect you.

There will be times in your life when people will show up in your space who mean you harm, and will take advantage of your niceness for their own selfish gains to the degree you allow it.

It is not “spiritual” to allow this type of behavior.

Through the crucible of my own experience, I have come to the conclusion that it is my responsibility to be the kind of man, friend, brother, son, lover, and citizen that faces conflict in these moments with compassion, but also discernment- with an open heart, but also a closed door if necessary.

Doing otherwise does not serve me, and it does not serve them.

Conflict can be beautiful and the resolving of conflict in perfect integrity is an art unto itself.

It is still hard for me. Make no mistake.

But I truly believe that if we as Men are unwilling to set a clear boundary in our lives, in our families, and in our relationships, we WILL be taken advantage of. And so will the people we claim to care about.

But, if Men like you and I can truly commit to Do no Harm AND Take no Shit, the world can change overnight.

After all, even Jesus lost his shit when he saw the money-lenders desecrating the holiest of holies.

Men of Tribe:

How do YOU embody the credo, “Do not Harm, Take no Shit?”

What harm are you tolerating?

What shit are you taking?

Either from yourself, or others?

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