“Master, you must help me,” said the visitor. “I am at my wit’s end.”
“What seems to be the problem?” The sage asked.
“I am having a hard time controlling my anger,” the visitor said. “It’s just the way people are. I see them criticizing others while totally unaware of their own faults. I do not wish to criticize them because I don’t want to be like them, but it really upsets me.”
“I see,” said the sage. “Tell me something first: Aren’t you the villager who narrowly escaped death last year?”
“Yes,” the visitor nodded. “It was a terrible experience. I ventured too far into the forest and ran into a pack of hungry wolves.”
“What did you do?”
“I climbed up a tree just in time before they converged on me. These wolves were big and I had no doubt they could tear me to pieces.”
“So you were trapped?”
“Yes. I knew I wouldn’t last long without water and food, so I waited for them to relax their guard. When I thought it was safe enough, I would jump down, make a mad dash for the next tree, and then climb up before they converged again.”
“This sounds like quite an ordeal.”
“Yes – altogether it lasted two days. I thought I would surely die. Luckily a group of hunters approached when I got close enough to the village. The wolves scattered and I was saved.”
“I’m curious about one thing,” said the sage. “During the experience, were you ever offended by the wolves?”
“Yes. Did you feel offended, or insulted by the wolves?”
“Of course not, Master. That thought never crossed my mind.”
“Why not? They wanted nothing more than to bite into you, did they not? They wanted to kill you, did they not?”
“Yes, but… that is what wolves do! They were just being themselves. It would be absurd for me to be take offense.”
“Excellent! Now let’s hang on to this thought while we examine your question. Criticizing others while being unaware of their own faults is something that many people do. You might even say that it is something we all do from time to time. In a sense, the ravenous wolves live in every one of us.
“When the wolves bare their fangs and close in on you, you should not just stand there. You should certainly protect yourself by getting away from them if at all possible. Similarly, when people lash out at you with venomous criticism, you should not accept it passively. You should certainly protect yourself by putting some distance between you and them if at all possible.
“The crucial point is that you can do so without feeling offended or insulted, because these people are simply being themselves. It is their nature to be critical and judgemental, so it would be absurd for us to take offense.It would be pointless for us to get angry.
“Next time the hungry wolves in human skin converge on you, remember: it’s just the way people are – exactly as you said when you came in.”