Updated: Feb 6, 2022
Image Source: Unsplash
One day, a wife found out her husband had cheated on her. She was absolutely devastated by her husband’s infidelity. She called some of her friends, and they all told her she should punish her husband or divorce from him. She felt worse and worse. Then she remembered Mr. Cai, who taught her about Di Zi Gui and virtues, so she called him hoping he might have some good advice.
When Mr. Cai picked up the phone, she was already sobbing. She told Mr. Cai about what had happened and asked for his advice. Mr. Cai said,
“When an outcome like this happens, there’s no way it’s 100% the other person’s fault and we are 100% innocent. So the first thought you must think is, What did I do wrong? What’s my contribution to the outcome?
When we only think about the other person’s wrongs, our emotional state will get worse and worse, and we become prone to acting irrationally.”
The woman calmed down a little. He then continued, saying,
“Let’s say it’s 80% their fault, and 20% our fault. We need to calm down and figure out what our 20% is, and then fix it. That’s the first important attitude to have. The second thing is to not put our messy emotions onto the other person. The third thing is this: When your husband is right, view him as your husband. When your husband is wrong, view him as your own son. If your son makes a mistake, would you abandon him and say it’s all his fault? Of course not. That would be very unfair.”
The woman said, “But he’s already so old, how can he not even know how to be a decent person?!”
Mr. Cai replied, “He’s old how? His body. What how about his wisdom? You say he should know. He really shouldn’t know because no one taught him. Has anyone ever taught you how to nurture a good spousal relationship? You’ve gone to school for over 10 years, yet have you ever learned about how to nurture a relationship?”
The woman said, “Okay, but what should I do then?”
Mr. Cai then proceeded to tell her a true story that he heard from his teacher, Ms. Yang.
Ms. Yang once had a student come to her sobbing, saying that her husband cheated on her. First, Ms. Yang exerted a calm presence to calm that student down. Then she asked, “Are you here to truly solve the problem? Or are you just seeking to rant?”
The student said she’s serious about solving the problem. Yang said, “Then you must seriously act on what I tell you to do.” The student complied.
Yang continued, “You must use tenderness to resolve this problem. Starting from today, his wrongs come second. Your wrongs come first. That means you must complete your duties fully, whether that be taking care of the kids, serving the in-laws, or anything else that’s your duty. Make sure you do your part completely. Over time, your virtue will awaken his sense of shame.”
So the next day, the woman put on a light layer of make up to look pleasant and presentable. At night, she made sure the children’s bags were packed for the next day, and then she put them to sleep. Then she sat and waited for her husband to return home. She watched the clocked tick away, second by second. 10:00PM. 10:30PM.
Suddenly, she understood an important concept: endure. If she were to let her anger rise now, then all of the previous effort she put in would go down the drain. So she continued to endure. After 1:00AM, she heard the door open. What now?
She immediately went over to the door, gave her husband a big smile, took her husband’s brief case with both hands, and said, “You must’ve had such a long and tiring day, coming home so late. You must be hungry too. I’ll go prepare some noodles for you right away.” Then she went to make some noodles. The husband was very shocked and confused, wondering if something had happened to his wife.
Starting from that day, the wife waited patiently every day for her husband to come home. Even though this husband had cheated on her, his sense of sense was awakened by his wife’s virtues. After about two months time, one day, this husband came home very early. As soon as he came in the door, he knelt down and said, “Please forgive me.”
The husband continued, “These past couple of months, I received such kindness from you, it’s been tormenting me. I don’t know how much more I can take.”
And so the wife was able to overcome her husband’s faults with sincerity and virtue.
Being cheated on by someone you love and trust is probably one of the hardest things to face in life. Most of us would feel negative emotions such as anger, resentment, hate, doubt, or shame. This true story illustrated a productive and positive way to resolve this conflict.
Lesson 1: Have a Bigger Heart
When the other person cheats on us, it is easy to blame everything on them, yell at them in anger, punish them, and cut off the relationship there and then. It is much harder to remain calm, to pity the other person, and then to help them correct their mistake. But if we think about it, which is the better option?
If we let our anger loose on them, we might feel good in the short run because they got the punishment that they deserved. But if we don't find a way to let go of that anger and resentment towards them, then we will continue to suffer. It's lose-lose. The Buddha gave a great analogy:
"Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
In this story, the wife took the higher road. She had a big heart and decided to pity her husband and to help her husband correct his mistake. She was determined to be a virtuous person, which is why she treated her husband so well for two months. She let go of her anger and resentment towards him, so her heart felt free.
Even if the husband didn't apologize after 6 months, the wife wouldn't be bothered. Her happiness was no longer dependent on how the husband behaved, but only on how she behaved. Plus, if the husband really didn't wake up and see how good of a wife he had, other people around him would notice, and they would probably smack him on the head and tell him to repent.
Lesson 2: Focus on What is in Your Control
The other lesson from the story is that whenever an interpersonal problem occurs, it is never 100% one person's fault. We need to focus our attention on fixing our part first rather than waiting for the other person to fix their part. As Ryan Holiday said in his book, The Obstacle is the Way,
“You will come across obstacles in life — fair and unfair. And you will discover, time and time again, that what matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure.”
What other people do and think is not within our control. If we only focus our attention on their wrongs, then our heart will be very angry and bitter. Not only will we be miserable, our misery will hurt innocent bystanders like the children, grandparents, and friends. Then we are being unfair to others too, which makes us bad just like the offender.
The only thing we can control is our attitude and behavior. When we instead focus on how we can do better, on how we can set a good example, then we will have a positive goal to work towards, and our emotional state will be much better. When our emotions are calm, we can make better decisions and act rationally, which will allow us to improve the situation.