05/18/2015 02:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Fighting Fire With Water

One year at teen camp I heard a minister tell a story that I still use to this very day. It was all about the Buddha and a guy who really hated him. I've heard it told in many variations since, and even embellished upon it myself over the years. Here's the gist:

- Guy Hates Buddha
- Guy confronts Buddha
- Buddha ignores Guy
- Rinse and repeat "confront and ignore" several times
- Finally Buddha asks Guy "If I wanted to give you a gift and you chose not to accept it, then who does the gift belong to?"
- Guy says, "It would still belong to you!"
- Buddha says, "Exactly. No Thank You."
- Buddha walks away
- Guy is stunned
- Great revelations and epiphanies are had by all onlookers


At first glance the message is really simple. If someone is trying to give you lemons, forget lemonade altogether. They can keep the lemons to make their own dang lemonade 'cause you're too busy being awesome to accept lemons or make lemonade. For the longest time that was the lesson I used this story to teach people of all ages. Teens, young adults and congregants alike all seemed to agree that it was a great story and a great lesson.

Then one day it occurred to me that Buddha, or whoever created this story, was actually a spiritual ninja master teaching multiple lessons in gratitude. The key is to be willing to see the lessons that are hiding in the details.

We've all heard about how being grateful for things or even just being grateful in general can be a phenomenal spiritual practice. In this story the Buddha is using the same graceful approach that we try to practice in accepting our good but instead is applying it to rejecting what he doesn't want. This is a serious revelation to anyone who's tried to apply any form of Spiritual Living to try and get the things they don't want to make a quick exit from their lives.

You see, usually when we experience something in our lives that we don't want our knee jerk reaction might be to tell it to get the heck out of here! While this is common and may even seem effective sometimes, if we pay close attention we will see that in actuality it fails. If we want our lives to be full of good we can't use tools crafted from anger and frustration to get the job done. In fact, we have to use tools specifically designed for good if we REALLY want to have more good in our lives. Seems simple enough right? Simple yes, but only easy with a LOT of practice.

Imagine if you felt the same way about the things you don't want in your life as you did about the things you do want. The key is in the FEELING that is associated with the experience. If we use anger to cast out anger then we've actually amplified the anger. If we are frustrated with a situation and treat it with discontent then we actually perpetuate both. This is, as my father used to say, "Bass Akwards."

Now, imagine if you used a blessing to let your anger and frustration go? For example, if a person in your life is trying to discredit you or publicly embarrass you, imagine if your first instinct was not to say, "SHUT UP SUCKA!" but instead was to say,"No thank you." Now how does that feel? Since I discovered this and started practicing and teaching it to others the common response I get is that it won't work. Oddly enough, none of those people have ever tried it. However, for those I have managed to convince to give it a shot, the feedback has been a 100 percent success rate.

All too often we're tricked into responding to the world and people around us by "returning fire" because we've been taught to "fight fire with fire" but tell me how many times you have actually put out a fire with fire? The truth is simple. You don't use fire to fight fire you use water, or foam, or a wet blanket or who knows what else... but not fire. Managing our lives is just as direct. Next time you're being met with anger try using gratitude and love in your response. All the greatest teachers throughout time have taught us that love is the highest power. Maybe it's time to start using it. The sooner we do the sooner we can get in some good practice and eventually become, like the Buddha, a master.