In fact, I'm the kind of person who has backslid so many times I have scrape marks up and down the length of my spine. But then, I'm a hard nut to crack. You probably don't make all the blunders I do: for me, mistakes are like vitamins -- do 3 a day whether you need them or not.
So: onwards about backsliding. By backsliding I mean all those occasions during the day when I have a choice of responding from my heart or my ego, and I choose the ego. Let's just say, for a brief moment, I'm under the illusion it feels better.
For example. Just the other day I heard someone at work belittling a fellow colleague-- an action that would cause any decent person to wince. Well, I'm decent enough, and I winced.
Of course, wincing itself isn't backsliding. Wincing is wincing -- no black marks there. I suspect even angels wince on occasion. There's probably a Grouse Bar & Grill you can visit up there -- a lovely, quiet place where you sip ginseng tea and compare ouches. No, wincing isn't backsliding.
Here's what backsliding is: carrying that wince into your mind, planting it in a pot, watering it, tending to it, encouraging it to sprout and grow little green things out of the soil. And then, proudly placing that fresh new plant on a windowsill and watching it grow into a thigh-high grudge.
I've done that, and even managed to reassure myself it was appropriate behavior while I was doing it. Why? Well, there's a curious little kink in our mind that allows us to feel superior when we are busy judging someone else.
So condemnation is a very tempting pot of glue to step into, and once you're inside, it's hard to exit. If you're familiar with the properties of glue, you know why.
At one point I noticed I was doing this, growing my scant wince into an enormous new species of Chrysanthemum leucanthemum. And in a moment of sanity I decided to nip it in the bud. (Am I terrific, or what?)
I trashed the plant, pot and all, and sat down to revisit the situation. This time, rather than focusing on the less-than-luminous behavior of the colleague in question, I took at look at why she might have done it.
And when I did, it occurred to me that only frightened people belittle others. So here I was, carrying a loaded judgment about a person who was too insecure, at one particular moment, to act in a larger way.
Does that mean it's fine for people who are scared to act in an incendiary manner? No. It doesn't even mean that we might not say something to someone who has made this kind of mistake -- honest feedback often helps people grow. But what it does mean is that it is not my assignment to grow grudges; my job is to see the person's fear, and work with that.
In this case, as I looked straight at the fear which had evoked this person's insensitivity, I lost all interest in the grudge, and tossed it in the garbage From there, my interest in the entire event seemed to dissipate into nothing.
Another way to say it would be that after I had seen the situation with clarity, I simply forgave it. Once forgiven, it disappears.
So what we're after, if we want to awaken, is to release the situation until it melts out of our mind like old snow. Then we're back on the road again, light as air: no weights on our windowsill, no cords binding us down to lead-heavy thoughts of rebuke.
Travelling light: there's no feeling quite like it.