My coworker and I were both sincere in our desire to serve God, but so different in the way we understood just about everything else that conflict was inevitable. For me, kindness is a primary value. I strive for excellence in what I do, but above all I want people to feel respected and included. Perhaps I go too much with people’s likes and dislikes when I should hold more strongly to principles.
Whatever tendency I had in that direction was more than compensated for by this man’s zealous commitment to doing things “right,” as he defined it.
Still, I was surprised by the intensity of his campaign against me. He never seemed to pass up a chance to belittle me or criticize my work. His negativity played right into my insecurity. Perhaps even worse for me, I was not his only target.
My heart is too tender. Even when others were able to shrug off what he said against them, I felt wounded for their sakes. Working with him became a torment and we had to work together almost every day.
I appealed to Swami Kriyananda for help. He was sympathetic, but his only comment was, “As you become stronger the tests become harder, until you become one with God. How else will you evolve spiritually except by being tested in the cold light of day?”
Things went on this way for ten long years. Sometimes I tried to talk to my coworker about the effect he had on me and others, but he was either oblivious or unconcerned.
I meditated often on Swamiji’s words. That didn’t resolve the situation, but it did help to make it less personal. I thanked God for trusting me enough to give me such a hard test.
Finally I made a firm resolution. Some part of me, I realized, was waiting for him to change. In deep meditation I prayed harder than I ever had before. “Dear Lord, what can I do to resolve this situation?”
The conflict at the time centered around a project which I wanted to carry forward and he was determined to thwart. After a time of heartfelt prayer, I surrendered all attachment to the project that had meant so much to me just a moment before.
As I surrendered, I felt the grace of God envelop me like a warm embrace. I looked into my heart and found nothing there but kindness toward my coworker. Years of frustration simply disappeared, dissolved by the grace of God.
Later that day when I saw him, I was completely relaxed and my heart was open—instead of braced as I usually was, anticipating the next blow. His voice, which had begun to grate on my nerves, now sounded sweet.
Even more amazing, his feelings toward me also changed. The test was over. From one day to the next we went from being antagonists to friends.
Before this, I had understood that God’s grace was all-powerful. Now I had experienced it.
I wrote to Swamiji about the miraculous change. Usually he would answer my letters with one of his own. This time, even though he was out of the country, he telephoned.
“I am so proud of you,” he said.