On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I learned some valuable lessons about honesty and humility. No, it wasn’t from gambling or being hypnotized into doing an embarrassing act on stage. As with most spiritual lessons in my life, it was from everyday life experiences, in particular, those experiences that are irritating or uncomfortable, like a rock in your shoe.
I was in Las Vegas to deal with an unpleasant situation regarding a home we purchased there last year. We had rented it back to the original owners as we weren’t planning on moving down right away and thought it would help them out. Even though we signed a lease with them and were incredibly generous on all the terms, the owners started defaulting on the rent right away. One excuse after another was given until they owed us several thousand dollars. We had to retain a lawyer and terminate their lease. I had gone to Las Vegas to meet with a property manager and speak with the tenants about the details of their departure.
While in Vegas, I purchased an expensive item on a credit card without talking to my husband, breaking an agreement we had about spending. I planned on waiting a while to tell him, using the old rationalization, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” However, as much as I tried to ignore them, the guilty feelings about what I had done were chipping away at my peace of mind.
Meeting with the tenants at the house was upsetting on many levels. It was obvious that not paying the rent was not the only agreement they had broken.
Driving back to the hotel I was filled with feelings of anger and judgment about the character of the tenants. How could they have done this? What type of people don’t tell the truth and keep their agreements?
Then, unbidden and out of nowhere, I heard what I call the inner voice of God. I have come to know this inner voice, and to trust its guidance. The messages are always brief, simply stated, non-judgmental and Truth with a capital “T”. The inner voice is always there, sometimes just a whisper, sometimes louder. This message came like a foghorn!
“How can you judge? You were dishonest and broke your agreement with your husband.” I felt a chill deep in my bones and slightly nauseated, the way one feels when a stark truth has suddenly been revealed. Like standing in a cold shower, I became acutely aware of the impact of the moment.
It took several days for all the lessons and insights to sink in. My judgment and anger toward the tenants faded as I turned that energy inward to examine my own behaviors. By “coincidence” I found a book in the Las Vegas airport on honesty, and read how everyone is dishonest in some way, especially with themselves. I learned that I wasn’t flawed or unique in my desire to “get away with something,” and using rationalizations and justifications to manipulate our own version of truth is just how we humans roll.
The most significant lessons were about humility. Who am I to judge? What makes me think I’m better than anyone else? Judging others by my moral standards gives me a false sense of superiority. Self righteous fault-finding is just another form of vanity. It keeps me separated from and somehow above the rest of the human race, which is actually quite lonely. We are all imperfect human beings just trying to make our way in the world.
When I am judging someone else, it may be more useful to use that energy to examine my own life. I was reminded of the saying, “When you point one finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.”
• Wendy Hamilton is a Clergy member of Eckankar, the Religion of the Light and Sound of God.