Be Like Steel Inside

From my earliest memory, I was a people pleaser. I naively thought that if someone didn’t like me, they would realize the error of their ways once they got to know me better. Their misperception of me would then be corrected and all would be well.

Foolish, foolish me.

I’ve learned that if you are unfailingly kind, compassionate and generous of spirit, offer a genuine smile of goodwill to all, and treat others as honorably, respectfully and reverently as you would like to be treated yourself, there will always be a certain percentage of people who will think you are a lousy excuse for a human being.

Such is life.

I also learned that unreasonable people do not respond well to reason, and that attempting to respond to hostility with reason only escalates the hostility. In such a situation, the best thing to do is to silently bathe your antagonist in love. Doing so just may turn your adversary into an ally.

For all these reasons, the following excerpt from Finding the Joy Within You, a collection of talks given by Sri Daya Mata, the longtime president of Self-Realization Fellowship, resonated deeply with me.

One time, when I was feeling sad that I had disappointed him, I said, “Master, am I really so much worse than the other disciples that you must scold me so much?”

He said, “Not at all. I give you this kind of discipline because you must become like steel inside.” Oh! How those words ring in my ears: “You must be like steel inside.”

“But Master,” I said, “I don’t like hard, callous people.”

Guruji said, “Don’t misunderstand me. I did not say ‘hard.’ You must become like steel, bendable but unbreakable, so strong that nothing can hurt you.”

Then I understood that to be like steel is to not let life crush you; but to be gentle and compassionate, and a pillar of strength that others can lean on, if necessary. In other words, it was basically what he said to me another time: “So love God inwardly that nothing will ever be able to touch you outwardly.” If you take such a thought and meditate on it, what strength it gives you!

In the later years, he scolded me one day before a large group of disciples in the ashram. It didn’t faze me, because I had learned  never to let my feelings interfere with truth. I said, “He is right; I have done that. I must correct myself.” That is the right way to take discipline.

When I had left the room, he sweetly turned to the other disciples and said, “You see how she behaves It’s been like that for years. No matter how I speak to her, she remains always calm and receptive inside. You all should learn from her.” When I was told this, many years later, tears filled my eyes. I said, “That was Guru’s blessing. I am eternally grateful for the strength and understanding he gave me.”

Since I have been writing publicly about spirituality, I have had a few encounters with folks who have felt compelled to tell me in no uncertain terms that I am either clueless or delusional. While I am getting better at being like steel inside, I have a long way to go. My inner peace is still too easily disrupted by such attacks.

I love Sri Daya Mata’s example of seeing Divine Mother in every person who treats her disrespectfully. I will remind myself of her saintly example whenever the next verbal grenade is launched my way. I will then have the proper perspective of viewing such a hostile encounter as an opportunity to more fully develop my inner strength and steeliness so that the placid waters of my equanimity are not disturbed by pebbles of unjust criticism.

I look forward to the day when I instinctively respond to verbal attacks not by defending but by transcending.

Click here to view all my posts about Paramahansa Yogananda and Self-Realization Fellowship.

Click here to view all my posts about relationships.

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6 Responses to “Be Like Steel Inside”

  1. buyfixrent Says:

    Hmmm….steeliness. Need to work on that. (It’s Barb Getty from Indy. I responded to a HARO post of yours and you kindly shared your blog site.) Thanks for sharing. :-)

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Barb. Good luck on your steeliness progress!

  3. gabriela Says:

    Thank you for sharing what you’ve been learning in your life journey!

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You’re very welcome, Gabriela. Thank you for stopping by!

  5. The Exception Says:

    This is an interesting take on it. I am in a place where I am learning to recognize the impermanence of thoughts and ideas – setting boundaries that are healthy… and allowing my own voice to ring true and clear. Where I once reacted – I respond… and sometimes that is silence. It is amazing what taking a deep breath and exhaling can do… given space and detachment… perhaps I am, without realizing it, finding the steel within me

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yes, T.E., behind the steel within is a soft, reflective space. The steel is just there to protect what is most valuable.

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