By Leo Babauta

In my February Q&A on the forum, I only got one question … but it was a good one …


This has to do with the Zen Habits article about when people annoy you. It says to accept them as they are and love them fiercely. OK, what does this look like in different situations? I would like more specific examples or scenarios. I struggle with when to do nothing, and when to take action. For example:


There isn’t a perfect answer here, because it would depend on how an individual situation feels. But here are some examples …

In a political conversation: Your friend has very different political viewpoints from you, and they’re annoying you. You might just accept that they see the world in a different way, accept that they are a good person but with a different viewpoint. And then love them fiercely just as they are (with their good heart), not needing to argue with them, just allowing them to have their different opinion. From this place, you can then agree that the two of you probably won’t come to an agreement, but also let them know that your opinion is different. If they are open to hearing more, you can tell them, but you don’t need to get into an argument.

When a coworker isn’t following through on their job: This is a difficult situation, but it’s important to remember that they probably have their reasons for acting that way. That doesn’t excuse their lack of follow through, but it’s good to understand. Can you recall a time when you didn’t follow through? What stopped you? What were your reasons? A lot of time it’s fear, bad habits, difficult life situations, or having too much to handle. Understanding this, we can accept that this person isn’t perfect, and that they might need support. Can we love them in their imperfection?

Can we lovingly offer support? Can we call on others to help support this person, so that they aren’t put in a position of failing? It might require training, a conversation where you find a good solution for everyone, or maybe this person gets moved to a job that they can thrive in better. You might not have the power to do that, but you can lovingly offer your best support, and then deal with the situation in as accepting and positive way as you can.

When parents blame the teacher: Of course, it’s always difficult to be blamed, and we often take it personally and feel the pain of that — and react with anger, frustration and/or defensiveness. This is a key situation where we can practice acceptance and fierce love.

For example, can we try to understand where the parents are coming from (loving their child, wanting the child to succeed, wanting to protect them)? Can we accept them as they are, even if their perspective might be skewed, seeing that they have loving hearts and human imperfections? It’s often helpful to remember that we have the same imperfections, just in different times and situations. Then love these beautiful parents, just as they are, without needing them to be perfect.

From this understanding, accepting and loving place, we can then talk to them in a kind way, that might get them to drop their defensive or blaming stance. Maybe not. But either way, we can come from a good place, and take the appropriate action without overreacting to the unfairness of being blamed. Yes, it’s unfair to us, it’s not really about us, it’s about their pain.