We all have things we do not like. People, situations, institutions and more that we believe to be threatening, damaging or overwhelming. Maybe it is the politics of the day. What our neighbors are doing. The traffic. The systems we engage with. A relative. A co-worker. The object of the distress is not so much the point here as the way we feel in the presence of that which we find injurious. This is not easy to see. For it can be difficult to impossible to see whatever is offending us as anything other than harmful.

Unless we open to a new perspective.

For instance, while we may feel justified in our feelings, when we look closely enough, separate from the “offending party” on the other side of us and what they do or do not do, the truth is, we are the ones left hurting on our side of the equation. Beyond that, because we hold to the belief that keeping the offender in the position of well, being the offender, we further ingrain the split leaving us to occupy the position of the offended one. Of the one who has damage being done to them. As in there is the offender and the offended. A kind of one side against the other scenario.

Whenever I find myself feeling as though there is no way out or around this kind of thing, I go to the body to see how it handles such situations. The body, as in that part of us that is not caught up in the past, conditioned behaviors or old beliefs. But instead, the deep animal aspect of us that has an inherent biological wisdom and truth built right in. A kind of intelligence that is beyond the wounds, beliefs and score keeping of the mind.

When it comes to the split around the “offender” and the “offended,” I think of the gut. I think of the communities of bacteria and other organisms, both beneficial and harmful, that inhabit the digestive tract. Many of us know that the presence of the friendly microbes is a big predictor of gut health. They also contribute to immune and mental vitality, make vitamins, digest food and more yet to even be discovered.

A big focus in this area is the role that the friendly bacteria play in keeping the gut colonized so that the harmful bacteria cannot take over. Cannot tip the scales as it were towards imbalance; creating discomfort and disease. In a nutshell, with enough of the “friendlies” around, the “unfriendlies,” those things that would bring us harm, are squeezed out.

But not completely.

For though we might want to imagine a gut (or a life) with nothing harmful being present, not only is it not possible, it is actually not even desirable. As far as the body is concerned, it’s not even an aim. At all.


You see, the body needs the mix.The body is built to be in the presence of harm, and to know exactly how to proceed. From this biological perspective, it is not about eradicating harm as much as it is about keeping the balance. As much as it is about recognizing that the presence of “harmful ones” gives the rest of the organism an opportunity to strengthen itself. A chance to clarify its role and position in the mix of all that is happening to and around the life of a body. A kind of necessary workout to the system on behalf of health.

We could think of our lives in the exact same way. For though it is easy to believe that our lives would be better off without that which produces harm, that would not actually be true. For when we meet up with that which is capable of inflicting injury, it gives us an opportunity to learn and to grow. It offers the exquisite experience of us mutating towards more resilience, more strength, and more built-in know-how through the exercise of defining what and who we are, against that which we are not.

With that said, this approach calls for a high degree of personal responsibility for it is so much easier to paint the world in black and white. So much easier to categorize our existence in terms of the black hats and the white hats. So much easier to label “harm” as the enemy to either be fought against or vanquished by. But in so doing, we miss out on one of the most essential teachings around being alive in a robust way; the ability to evolve by transmuting “the harm” we come in contact with in the service of evolution to a higher order.

A lofty idea that is made real by trying something basic. The next time you are up against “harm,” ask yourself the question; “If I were to suspend being the one who is harmed, what would be possible here?” What might I see? Learn? What balance might be brought to my life through exposure to that which I find offensive?