Often, I see people that claim to have a belief in something, but then go on to undermine the ability of others to share in that belief because these people are too strident or over-the-top in trying to present their views. To them, things are so crystal clear: what could be wrong with someone that does not agree completely with their views? Are they ignorant? Or are they willful enemies?
By leaving out the ability of others to judge things differently, which I call spiritual immaturity, such people are prone to hardline views, are less able to forgive, are more likely to use contentious or confrontational language and, ultimately, commit acts of violence. They will do these things, all the while believing that they are in the right and are justified in their actions.
Spiritual maturity, on the other hand, allows one to accept that other people will walk other paths. Indeed, that each person walks a unique path, some in a similar direction, others not. A spiritually mature person would hope to influence the path of another, but will also recognize when such influence is either unwanted or won’t be understood, or both – and then, in such cases, to refrain from attempting such influence.
Sadly, the spiritually immature can see this maturity as a threat to their own narrow views and lash out against it as heresy, putting it on the same level as their paranoid reactions towards supposed enemies outside their faith. To the immature, the mature can seem as traitors from within because they will not join in crusades or other acts of forcible conversion. Rather, they live and let live and somehow seem to allow evil to flourish.
In truth, it is the mature person that is not allowing evil to color his or her actions and pervert his or her beliefs.
I’ve been the immature person before, thinking that standing my ground in a heated argument lasting for hours was a sort of victory. In truth, it was all wasted words, as I did not convince the others of my views and served only to make them more ready to disagree with anything I proffered in the future. I’ve been that way about my religion, my politics, my views on music, my tastes in arts, and so many other subjective areas. It’s taken me many years to develop the ability to let others have the last word, even when it contradicts what I’ve been trying to say. It’s a sort of long game for me, because if I’m known to let others have a fair say, then I’m more likely to be listened to in the future by those I disagree with. And, maybe in that future day, my arguments might find their way into the hearts and minds of those others that disagree with me today.
Perhaps this is why I’m drawn to teachings of live and let live that are common among Daoist philosophers, Zhuangzi in particular. Perhaps this is why I see value in the Zen koans. While I myself am neither Daoist or Buddhist, I find a sympathetic maturity in their sentiments, in the way they serve to remove masks and illusions that so often bedevil our views, and then allow us to better penetrate the darkness between our souls and enlightenment.