As long as we have been on this planet, wise teachers have shared great truths about the real cause of the pain in our lives. And all of them pointed in exactly the opposite direction from where we’ve always tended to look. The enemy is not what we think it is. The real adversary in our lives, that proverbial thorn in our side that leaves us aching and angry, and then sends us looking for someone to blame, is not what we have always believed. It is not something “out there.” It’s something “in here”: an intimate enemy.
We can each name a hundred things that we think is the enemy, but the enemy is not:
- a friend who betrays you
- a shaky economic system
- a threatening boss
- some stubborn habit
- that rude driver
- a computer that won’t work
These things are all conditions that we must deal with. But the real enemy is much closer to home.
Everyone senses what that intimate enemy is as soon as he or she hears the expression. We all know that self-tormenting voice of defeat that rings within our own minds. No one is as critical of us as we are of ourselves. We all know how we are besieged by conflicting voices that send us first one way and then another, and finally make us doubt every decision. No one sabotages our plans and happiness as we, ourselves, do. No wonder none of our victories are permanent. Oh, we may have “fixed” that enemy for a time. Perhaps a heart-to-heart talk eased our anxiety about that relationship, or an especially good job done at work made that employer finally take notice; however, “fixing” that person outside does nothing to fix the problem inside. The unhappy nature that created the first enemy will just create another. It has to, because the inner dissatisfaction that projected itself outward to identify that first enemy continues to rule from within.
A little story helps explain this.
One day a man was walking around his property when a stone slipped unnoticed inside the sole of his shoe. The stone was just big enough to set the man slightly off balance, and as he walked across an uneven area of ground, he slipped. Annoyed, but confident of his actions, the man immediately “fixed” the problem by smoothing out the ground with a rake and shovel, but the stone lodged in his sole continued to cause him a great deal of pain. Proceeding with his walk, and squinting his eyes against the growing discomfort, he failed to see the low-hanging branch of a tree ahead of him. Sure enough, he walked right into it and bumped his nose! Greatly irritated, he “fixed” this new problem by cutting down the tree. More annoyed than ever, and unable to think clearly because of the now persistent pain, he got angry with his hired man for letting all these dangerous conditions exist in the first place. The obvious “fix” for this problem was to fire him!
It is clear to us as observers of this man’s story that the way he perceived his situation ensured that there would never be an end to his problems and “fixes.” Why? Because the problems he “fixed” were only secondary outcomes. He never addressed the real cause at all.
Similarly in our own lives, we’ve been working very hard to correct conditions that are really no more than secondary outcomes, and not the real problem at all. We fight a daily war to protect ourselves against enemies that, in fact, never are responsible for the pain we feel. The resolution of all our difficulties lies in correctly identifying and then eliminating the “stone in our sole.” To do this, we must embark on a journey of self-discovery that examines many hidden reaches of our being, leaving no stone unturned! When the journey has been completed, we will never see ourselves or the world we live in the same way again, and our new understanding will give us an inner strength that can never be defeated — for with each step of that journey, we walk farther away from the true source of every pain.
This article is excerpted from Who Put That Stone In My Shoe?.
About the Author: Guy Finley, Your Bi-Weekly Mentor, is the best-selling author of more than 40 books and audio albums on self-realization. He is the founder and director of Life of Learning Foundation, a nonprofit center for spiritual discovery located in southern Oregon where he gives talks four times each week. For more information visit www.guyfinley.org, and sign up to receive a free helpful weekly newsletter and other gifts.
Click here to read Guy’s autobiography and find more of his articles posted on The Teen Mentor.