Many years ago, I read the following inspiring story of how a man overcame his anger and lack of self-esteem.

A widow was presenting the eulogy at her husband’s funeral service. She held up a dog-eared half sheet of paper, explained that her husband had kept it in his wallet since before they were married, and that it had prevented him from getting angry with others or becoming negative about himself.

Her husband had told her that when he was a teenager attending an all-boys high school, a major fight was about to break out in his . classroom. It had been brewing for days. The teacher used the last opportunity to exert her authority to order every student to stay at his desk and carefully tear out a page from his exercise book. Then she told them to write, at the top of the page, the name of the boy in the class that they hated the most. They all obeyed. Then she ordered them to draw a neat vertical line down the middle of the page and. on the left side of that line, write the reasons why they hate that boy so much. Her class happily followed that instruction too.

“Now,” she commanded, “on the right side of the line. write the things that you admire and respect about that boy you hate.“

That was very hard for the boys to do. She had to force them to complete the task.

“Fold your piece of paper carefully along the vertical line.” was her next instruction, and tear it in half. I am coming around with a wastebasket. The left-hand pieces of paper, where you have written all the reasons why you hate your enemy, I want you to place in the wastebasket. The right-hand pieces of paper, where you have written the things that you respect and admire about your enemy, you must politely hand to them. Do it!”

The widow explained that the old half sheet of paper that she was holding up was the right-hand piece that her husband’s worst enemy at high school had given to him, describing all the things that he respected and admired in her husband when he was a boy.

Her husband would refer to that half sheet of paper whenever he was about to get angry. If this is what his worst enemy could see in him, maybe he could bring himself to see some redeeming qualities in his own enemies. Then when he was close to becoming depressed, he thought that if his enemy could see such line characteristics to admire in him, then maybe he could see them too. That is why he kept the half sheet of paper with him all his life. It made him a contented man.

So if you don’t like yourself, get out a sheet of paper, draw a line down the center, write the things that you don’t like about yourself on the left side, and the things you like about yourself on the right side. You must fill the right side! Then tear it in half, throw away the left side, and keep the right portion. Refer to it regularly. It will provide you self-esteem-and also save you spending a lot of money on therapy!

Excerpt from “Don’t Worry be Grumpy” by Ajahn Brahm


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