Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More on mudita

Yesterday I linked to an article by Charolotte Bell at the end of my posting but I didn't give you an exerpt. Today I want to call your attention to what I believe is a truly important point that she made:
The tendency of human beings to judge others according to our own preferences is a quality that hinders our ability to generate mudita. Again, this is a way of defining others in reference to ourselves. When a person makes a choice that we would not make and it brings them happiness, how do we react? Do you have a friend who has chosen to live an austere lifestyle, while you enjoy living lavishly? Maybe someone you know enjoys the glitz of Las Vegas, while you would rather spend time in the silence of the Escalante. Maybe you have a friend who has chosen to have children, while you have chosen to remain childless. Or maybe someone you know loves a type of music, film or art you can’t stand.

There is a tendency to discount someone’s happiness when it is derived from an activity or lifestyle choice that is not our preference. Do others’ choices really threaten the validity of our own? Or are their unique tastes and choices simply a complementary color that makes the fabric of humanity even more magnificent? When we begin to see others without self-referential judgment, we can learn to celebrate their happiness and respect their choices—as long as those choices are not causing harm—without judging them. Our negative judgments of others do not elevate us. Instead, they serve only to create unhappiness for ourselves and those around us.
Remember: Mudita is "sympathetic joy" - that is, the ability to experience delight in someone else's happiness, success or good fortune. It is definitely a quality worthy of cultivation.

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