#1:  See the Hostile Connection

In the interest of focus for this particular episode, we’re addressing hostility in the context of interpersonal relationships… not literal warfare. We’ll engage a spiritual philosophy perspective on war in a later episode. But for now, let’s talk about interpersonal hostility in its 4 basic flavors of intensity:  Visceral hatred is the most bitter flavor. General animosity is a step down from that. Coming in third is what’s felt as casual dislike. But the 4th flavor of hostility is very subtle, and if you’re not looking for it, you could miss it. This is the flavor of indifference. It’s the “I couldn’t care less about them” attitude. Although it seems harmless, indifference qualifies as subtle hostility because you can’t be indifferent about someone and demonstrate compassion toward them at the same time. As you might expect, different levels of hostility correspond with different levels of mental and spiritual liability. The reason for this is that hostility attracts hostile circumstances in life. The more intense your hostilities are, the more intense will be the difficulties you attract… both internally and externally. This principle is similar to what Eastern spiritual traditions call, karma. But you don’t have to believe in karma to simply observe that life reflects back at us who we choose to be… and who we choose to be is as much about how we think as it is about how we act.

Living in a world where there’s so much cruelty makes harboring hostility a seemingly justifiable position. What we miss, however, is that our own hostility doesn’t make the world better; it makes it worse. When we harbor hostility in any form - including indifference - we create more hostility in our world. The only thing that stops this cycle of hostility is choosing compassion - in our hearts, in our minds, and certainly with our actions. Furthermore, choosing to act or think with hostility is an unhealthy choice. When you have ill will toward others, you literally poison your own physical and mental health.

#2:  Track Down the Hostile Origin

What exactly is it that motivates people to be hostile? It’s very simple, really. Either they’re not getting what they want, or you are not being who they want you to be, and this frightens them. When fear drives people to get angry and hostile, this gives them a delusional rush of power. But what’s actually happening is that they’re being controlled by their circumstances. And by way of their negative reactions, they’re letting other people define who they are. The secret for anyone to overcome this disempowered state of mind is to adopt a wider perspective on how things could be OK without the world - or other people - showing up exactly how they want them to. This can take a leap of faith. But the alternative to that leap is choosing to stay stuck in hostile negativity which breeds more and more difficulty.

#3:  Take the Hostility Antidote

So, how do we handle hostility when it comes at us or starts coming from us? The first thing to do in either case is: don’t feed it. When you take the bait from another or when you act on hostile feelings from within, you are no longer the adult in the room. Of course, you should never tolerate abuse, but abusing the abuser isn’t a viable solution. Let the desire for reconciliation be your guide… not retaliation. That’s what being the adult in the room looks like. Yet to be the adult, it’s necessary to develop the ability to not take things personally. This is the ultimate antidote against hostility because, if you’re not taking things personally, your feelings and actions can’t be manipulated. As was mentioned in an earlier episode, the capacity to rise above anger by not taking personal offense allows you to see the root of hostility - both in yourself and in others. It is only then that you can help find ways to resolve it.

Differing perspectives that lead to disagreements are a natural part of life. But for those disagreements to be healthy and promote learning, they must be explored in an atmosphere of kindness. When hostility is chosen over kindness, a domino effect is set into motion that inevitably brings difficult circumstances into our lives. However, once we notice this action-reaction mechanism and its consequences, choosing kindness over hostility becomes much easier. Avoiding hostility really just boils down to this: If you want to experience good things in life, then do good things, say good things, and think good thoughts.


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