What Did YOU Do Though?


Life can be hard. There is no question about that. Sometimes we are all faced with tough situations: We lose a job; a friend or romantic partner betrays our trust; we can be the victims of crime. The list goes on and on and it isn’t often that we look at these situations and wonder how WE could have contributed.


Let me preface this with something I think should be obvious: no matter your level of complicity, that doesn’t give anyone the right to treat you wrong. I am not “blaming the victim”. What I AM asking though, is don’t we all know those individuals who, for some reason or another, always seem to be on the receiving end of some particularly bad luck?


If you happen to be that individual, you may find yourself questioning why the Universe is against you.

It can certainly feel that way. But we have to face reality. The thing, whatever it is, has happened. It doesn’t seem obvious that feeling sorry for ourselves and our unfair situation is particularly helpful. This is not me being cold or callous. Rather, it is an attempt to help you get out of the hole life has put you in.


Here’s the hard truth:


I know, the guttural reaction is: “I didn’t do anything wrong.” But understand that the Universe is either against you or a partner with whom you are meant to practice and subsequently evolve as a person. Your perception will determine your reality.


I’ll take the most extreme example: being a victim of a crime. Perhaps you are out one night, too late, and someone mugs you. Perhaps you are getting money from the ATM at 2:30 AM and someone sticks you up. Are they guilty? OF COURSE! Should you have been victimized? OF COURSE NOT. But did you put yourself in a situation in which something awful was more likely to happen?


In the Dojo, Sifu always teaches that the best block is, “don’t be there.” In a martial application, since our art is based primarily in side-stepping as opposed to hard blocks, this means to avoid the attack.

But when we take the concept outside of the Dojo, it is just as useful. I am talking about making smarter decisions.

Think about the last time you went to the ATM too late. Or maybe the last time you let your car run to empty and got gas in the middle of the night. Maybe you got lucky and nothing happened…but maybe you didn’t. And past luck is no determiner of guaranteed future luck. Again, this gives no one the RIGHT to attack you, but the best prevention or block would have been to not be there.


Perhaps you are being treated unfairly at work.

Maybe your boss is disrespectful and treats you poorly. Before you complain about her or him, ask what you did to contribute to the situation.

I remember a personal situation in which I felt my boss was being unfair to me. He came down way too hard on some work I had done, and I didn’t believe his critiques were fair.


Was he a jerk? Maybe (probably). But I also made a decision and applied a universal truth: people treat you how you allow them to treat you. I, instead of sulking and lamenting the tyrant, decided to speak up for myself and respectfully, yet strongly, point out where I disagreed. I was risking my job, I’m sure, by speaking up. But I knew that living a lie would have been far worse. If I allowed the behavior to go unchecked, it would likely only have gotten worse. As a result, I would have grown more bitter, probably done lower quality work and would have been contributing to the cycle. He shouldn’t have acted the way he did, but I was under no obligation to be complicit in the behavior by being silent.


Silence in the face of injustice or poor decision-making in questionable situations is not (maybe) AS BAD as the perpetration of the offensive act, but it is arguably on the same level. When you let bad things happen and remain silent, you are giving them the subliminal “green light” to continue. When you put yourself in bad situations, you are exposing yourself to predators.


There is no doubt that the guiltier party is the one doing the bad act, but that doesn’t make us innocent. There is no prize for being “less wrong” than someone else. You are still the victim. What I encourage you to do is to learn from every experience. One of my favorite fight coaches always says, and means, you either win or you learn. If you don’t learn, then it is truly a loss. If you learn, it is an opportunity to do whatever you can to not let that bad thing happen again in the future.


We will all be faced with adversity and a lot of it is truly unfair. But do not allow it to beat you down into a miserable, hunched over person who expects the next beating. Stand up straight (after sitting quietly and meditating) and face life bravely, openly and honestly. It will not prevent bad things from happening, but it can make the pain at least have meaning.


There are two types of suffering:


  1. The type that makes you stronger and is worth enduring for a greater cause, and
  2. The type that is pointless


I do not advocate pointless things. Always learn a lesson. Use your meditation and introspection to look at every situation to determine if there was anything you could have done differently to prevent tragedy from befalling you. Sometimes, there is nothing you could have done. More often, there is. Part of being the person you want to be, WHEN you want to be that person is knowing the difference. Do not let life happen TO you. Be a master of your actions…NEVER a prisoner of your reactions and circumstances. You are way too strong to play a victim.



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