What Happens When You Invite Your Enemies for Tea?
Howard Stern entered an elevator and found himself face-to-face with a man that he’s been relentlessly berating on his well-known radio show. What could have been an awkward elevator ride turned into a lesson on compassion for us all.
I love listening to the podcast, “Armchair Expert” with Dax Shepard. During one episode, he interviewed Mike Shur – creator of the hit show, “The Good Place.”
Mike Shur, who is married to Regis Philbin’s daughter, told a touching story of compassion that reminded me of this lesson we all need to remember: We should invite our enemies to tea.
Mike shared that Howard Stern, well-known for his provocative radio show, used to relentlessly make fun of Regis on the air. If you’ve ever heard Howard Stern, you know that he takes “making fun of” to another level. As luck would have it, and unbeknownst to the radio host, Howard moved into Regis’ New York City apartment building.Soon after he moved in, Howard and Regis shared an elevator. It could have been an awkward ride, but Regis introduced himself and said something like, “You’re new to the building! Want to come over to my apartment?”
Regis showed him his apartment, offered Howard tips about the neighborhood, and introduced him to his wife, Joy. The two men had a great time getting to know each other and became fast friends.
During his radio show the next day, Howard publicly apologized to Regis and admitted that he was completely wrong about him. Undoubtedly taken aback by Regis’ friendly and welcoming gesture, Howard realized that he had unfairly characterized Regis.
This reminded me of stories I’ve heard from Buddhism about how the Buddha dealt with Mara – the demon who represented death, destruction, lust, and temptation. Mara visited the Buddha on several occasions. Instead of viewing the demon with despair, however, the Buddha would offer a comfortable cushion and invite Mara for tea. Mara would drink the tea and then depart, allowing the Buddha to continue in peace.You can follow the literal meaning of the story and invite your “enemies” to tea, just like Regis Philbin did with Howard Stern. This way of interacting with opponents reminds me of the Brene Brown quote from her book “Braving the Wilderness,”
“People are hard to hate close up. Move in.”
You can also take the figurative meaning of this story and welcome your negative thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Instead of pushing them away, you can acknowledge them and view them with openness and curiosity. Once you do, those negative thoughts won’t have as tight of a grip. They might even depart peacefully, just like Mara.
This poem by Rumi inspires me to work on treating my internal and external enemies gently and kindly – just like Buddha…and Regis!
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!…
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
About Compassion It
Compassion It is a nonprofit whose mission is to inspire compassionate actions and attitudes through workplace training, personal development training, tools, and content. We envision a world where compassion is practiced by every person, for every person, on every day.
Learn how to “Compassion It” and build a more compassionate world. Share our mission and become a Compassion It Advocate.
Also, did you know we offer compassion training for your workplace? Learn how our training can reduce burnout, help your organization’s bottom line, and foster a more compassionate workplace.