Have you ever had difficulty communicating with a self-claimed spiritual person that they are unkind and causing harm, but they wouldn’t hear of it? Did they continue to think that they are right and virtuous, and it’s the other unwise people who need to shape up? I’ve continually met this person throughout my teachings and coaching. Admittedly, I was one of them once.

So, how do you go about communicating with such a person?

First, let me clarify who I’m thinking of. The average “spiritual person” in our culture might claim to be an independent thinker, not a follower of any religion. They may say things like, I believe in God and try to be a good person and not bother anyone. Some talk about how they love the ways and rituals of the Native Americans, for example, or what the Shamans believe in or that they love the earth and nature, moon, stars. Some are merely happy go lucky or mostly stay passive in life. Some are open to alternative ways, like drinking Ayahuasca to visit other realms and obtain insights. Others like to chant some words to bring themselves and the planet peace, etc.

The Issue Is

Without serious self-awareness practices, wise competent teachers, guidelines, and spiritual friends who can be kind mirrors, most self-claimed spiritual people continue to suffer like anyone else. They can get pissed off at the world, fear whatever doesn’t go their way or be hateful or critical of whoever doesn’t think like them. They can be in great denial about their own conduct and ways of thinking or enabling. Unwittingly, do great harm while feeling stuck in a relationship.

Let’s examine this through an example.

One of my dear neighbors, who perceives himself as a spiritual person with top qualities of kindness and peacefulness, has had at least one pet peeve that I know of. That is getting annoyed by anyone parking in front of his house. Mind you; he does have a garage and a two-car driveway as well. However, very protective of this parking spot, he constantly knocks on doors to find out what ignorant guest parked there and to have them move it. As far as I know, we all have kindly gone along with it.

One day, as I walked outside for a little break from work, quietly walking, taking in the afternoon fresh air, he comes up to me and asks if this one truck belonged to “my people.” I said, “No, as you can see, there isn’t anyone parked in my own driveway to spill over to your side.” In a good mood, I smiled and gently reminded him that this was a public street, that he couldn’t always prevent everyone who ever crossed here not to park there. “It’s the street; someone is bound to park there,” I said. That’s when he became agitated, raised his voice, and said that I had dominated the street that my guests always park in front of his home and recounted events that dated fifteen years back. Since he knew I held retreats and classes at my home, he continued by claiming that he was born a spiritual man and knew what was right and insinuated that I needed to go learn better English, as in I was a foreigner. Perhaps, he was even thinking at the moment that the mess “his” country is in was the fault of people like me. We have taken over! Yap.

I stood there, listened calmly, and when he finally stopped,

With a friendly voice, I said, “Well, you can insult me. It’s okay! But, is that spiritual?” He stopped and looked at me with wide eyes. When I realized I had his attention, with the same soft voice, I repeated, “You can insult me. It’s okay! But, is that spiritual?” That’s when he realized how contradictory his behavior was to the view of himself. Suddenly, this tall, giant of a man who’d become the Zeus himself, shrank in size. His eyes turned from bloody angry into a soft gaze and remorseful. He lowered himself to my height and, with a deep, kind voice, he said, “Oh Manijeh, you have always been an angel. I have never seen anything but goodness from you. I am so sorry for my behavior. I am sorry. I promise I will never do this again. I will never insult you. I am ashamed of myself.” At that point, there was no more to say. I thanked him, and we departed. In the following days, he kept bringing me fresh fruits and vegetables from a farmers market, which he worked to ensure I believed him and mend any harm. He wanted to live up to his own view of himself.

Why Did It Work?

I have come to understand from actual experiences and advanced Mindfulness practices that fighting darkness with darkness, mind with mind, hate with hate, insult with insult doesn’t stop anything. It only reinforces the original hatred and delusion. It worked because I remained calm. I did not take my neighbor’s desperate attempt to look good by insulting me personally. I wasn’t offended, but I used that word to show how unfriendly he was acting. Posing that simple, nonargumentative question, I sent the ball into his court to think about his claim. As a spiritual person who coaches others, I understand that this is a path, not a destination. Every opportunity can be a pivoting point for anyone to learn about themselves and grow from it.

I Recommend

  • Learning how to be a kind friend without conditions
  • Learn how to hold up a mirror for another without judgment and with loving-kindness
  • Give the person a chance to see for themselves that their behavior and their self-view might contradict
  • Build the courage and the skill to be open with them
  • Please do not ignore them and build up resentment against them
  • Understand that even if the person is a spiritual teacher or an elder, they are more likely on a path, not at the final destination
  • Remain calm and objective

As my teachers say, “I offer this for your reflection. Take what is useful and leave the rest.”

Manijeh Motaghy, PsyD. OMC, AMT