by Friends of Godwin
When you see someone doing something wrong in a spiritual relationship, do you say: May you be well, may you be happy, may you be peaceful? Do you say: These minuses are only concepts, I do not use minuses? What will a spiritual friend do in such a situation? He will speak with the other person. He will want him to grow. He will engage in some kind of a dialogue, because a spiritual friend would try to get the other person to understand his behaviour. Sometimes we just assume that the other person understands why he is behaving in this way. So it is very useful to get that person to understand or reflect on his behaviour.
And then the spiritual friend does something very creative too. When the other person does not do anything wrong, the spiritual friend points that out too! It is extremely destructive to point out only the minuses, and only when the other person does something wrong. It is extremely important to tell the other person when they are doing something good, something skilful, something wholesome. This is a quality we need to cultivate. The other quality you do not have to cultivate, it is there naturally!
So it takes some effort to see these positive qualities, to say this with your whole heart and to really show your deep appreciation for these things. This can be very touching. There can be a beautiful communication when such a thing happens. And the spiritual friend does the same to you. It is simply sharing with each other, and not taking up a position that one is better or more superior than the other. But really just sharing together, learning together, and growing together.
Sometimes it is also important to know when it is necessary to be assertive. That is, you should know when to be gentle and when to be assertive. I will share with you what a woman in Sri Lanka told me about regarding this aspect. This happened when I was in a very remote village speaking to a group of meditators. One of the women shared this experience with the group. She revealed that her husband would come home drunk and would start breaking the pots, plates, cups and so on. She tried so many things – practising loving-kindness, speaking to him in a very kind, gentle way when he was sober. She even spoke to his other friends, and through those friends tried to influence him to change. She would collect all that he had broken and keep the pieces in a place where he could see them. All these tools did not work. At last, one day when he came home drunk she said: If you break one plate, I will break ten! And that ended his days of breaking plates!
So as a spiritual friend you have to use these methods in a skilful way, and not merely always be passive. Some people understand only this language. This is a point to remember.