I find myself in conflict with the Buddhist idea of letting go.

If someone insults you, is rude to you, insults a loved one, harrases you or a loved one and so on. According to Buddhism, we should forget about it. Past is past.

But then on the other hand Buddhism also mentions that we should be courageous. And sometimes being courageous can lead to further pain. Say that you confront people who insult a loved one and then they stab you.

I'm having a problem to decide when to confront and when not to.

For now, I always let go and I feel like a doormat sometimes.

Thank you.

3 Answers 3


I think the best message on this topic is the Akkosa Sutta: Insult (SN 7.2) -- about insult and anger:

The first message is that, in order to not accept an insult, don't (violently) reject it, just don't participate in it

And secondly,

You make things worse
when you flare up
at someone who's angry.
Whoever doesn't flare up
at someone who's angry
wins a battle
hard to win.

For what it's worth I think that my "martial arts" teacher taught just about exactly that same message -- about anger, fighting, and so on.

  • Just because if someone is angry and is constantly insulting your wife, doesnt mean that you should allow him to do so. Dont you think so?
    – user14318
    Oct 27, 2018 at 13:09
  • 3
    My wife had plenty of courage and she did not want me to be a fighter.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 27, 2018 at 13:16
  • So you are saying that you will not do anything when people are saying bad words to you or being rude to you or your family? Doesn't this passive behavior encourage more bad behaviors from others? Thank you
    – user14318
    Oct 27, 2018 at 13:28
  • 3
    "You make things worse when you flare up..." I'm not much inclined to blame myself (e.g. my "passive" behaviour) for someone else's misbehaviour. This may not be "passive", either, e.g. the Dhammapada, verse 222, "He who checks rising anger as a charioteer checks a rolling chariot, him I call a true charioteer. Others only hold the reins." -- see also verses 3 through 5.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 27, 2018 at 15:11
  • @user14318 To reinforce ChrisW's point: "So even if someone strikes those nuns with fists, stones, rods, and swords in your presence, you should give up any desires or thoughts of the lay life...My mind will be unaffected. I will blurt out no bad words. I will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate" MN21. Indeed Ajahn Chah has a story of soldiers killing monks in a monastery and the abbot wrote each of the soldiers a letter thanking them for visiting the monastery and welcoming them back in the future. Some soldiers became monks.
    – OyaMist
    Oct 28, 2018 at 14:22

So, of course, I can quote some Sutta and say this is similar to your situation and so-and-so happened with Gautama Buddha, da-di-da-di-da etc., and so you must do this or that. But I want to get practical here.

I think it is important to understand this. What you are essentially trying to do is looking for a "philosophy" that is a hammer-on-a-nail for every little situation we are faced with.

In this light, you are seeing this "concept" of Buddhism in your head, which has useful texts regarding certain aspects of life. Also it is a fact that times have gone on. The world is constantly changing. Reliance on a certain philosophy and buzzwords (like "let go") and the general people's perception on Buddhism per se, can cause conflicts like these.

That's why my answer here is a question back to you, because we need to think this through carefully. Perhaps it is your "concept" of Buddhism as this philosophy that asks you to "let go" is the problem. Why look at Buddhism for somebody insulting you?

Too many words are going around like this today. "Let go", "let it be", "mindfulness" are all these so-called Instagram/Twitter hashtags these days. Perhaps we are making a mistake in holding on to some concocted philosophy which you don't know is right or wrong.

Situations in your life and Buddhism as your "concept" are two separate things, don't mix them up. :) Try to change your idea of Buddhism. It is not trying to tell you what to do when someone insults your wife. It is trying to tell you about samsara and liberation essentially.

Finally, coming to your situation of insults and everything, don't look at Buddhism/Hinduism/Christianity/whatever for answers. Will the answer ever be there in the texts as to what is the right thing to do? Has it ever been that way? If your answer is yes, then probably I cannot help you.

  • I'm not sure that this is a "practical" answer. It seems to be an example of 'answering a question with a question' ... which is maybe not the most appropriate type of answer for this site (reference).
    – ChrisW
    Oct 27, 2018 at 16:05
  • @ChrisW Its absolutely practical because a) this is a practical life matter that he is asking about b) The perspective towards Buddhism needs correction. Buddhism is about seeing things the way they are. I may not use Pali words/literature or Sutta references. But definitely Buddhism (or any spiritual path for that matter) is a way of looking at life the way it is, not as you are. And I have done exactly that.
    – esh
    Oct 28, 2018 at 1:35

...I always let go and I feel like a doormat sometimes.

There're creative ways to both let go while not being a doormat. Humans are still animals with big brains. And like animals, the predator (or bully in the case of humans) only picks out the weakest one in the herd to prey on. This applies everywhere, in school, at work, at wars, etc. So be strong, both physically and mentally. It's simply human nature that if one sees a doormat, he'll step on it. Why? because he can. So do not display any outward sign of weaknest. And no, this is not violating the Teaching. You can be strong while not being angry at the same time.

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