How to Accept Defeat, Part 3


Why I Wanted to Skewer Someone This Week


The Karma Project

icebergLet me tell you something. It’s one thing to Accept Defeat when you are wrong or when you have no other choice about the situation. It’s quite another to do it when you know, without a blazing doubt, that you are right.

I know this because, this past weekend, I got a Google alert that my name had appeared in a blog. I clicked on the alert, and it took me to a blog post that flamed a Woman’s Day article where I’d been quoted. About my particular quote, the blogger wrote, “The Titanic was in better shape after whacking the iceberg than relationships based on these beliefs are!”

I think the blogger went on to write some other negative things about my advice, but I was already having heart palpitations at that line so I stopped reading.

At first I thought about leaving the following comment on the guy’s blog: “Well obviously more people agree with my advice than agree with yours, given your Alexa rank is 10 million and mine waaaaay higher than that. So there, Mr. Smarty Pants!”

I really wanted to leave that comment. Oh, I wanted to.

But I held off.

I did because, if I’ve learned nothing else in my past year of going to the Dharma class, I have learned this: anger begets more anger. The only exception to that rule is anger directed at an enlightened lama, because enlightened lamas are above all of that pettiness.

Me? I’m not anywhere near enlightened. Obviously.

Anyway, I also held back because I knew that I would never agree with Mr. Smarty Pants and he would never agree with me. It’s pointless for the two of us to argue.

But I couldn’t just let the guy tell the entire Internet that taking my advice was like hitting an iceberg and dying a very terrifying and very cold death.

Right? Are you with me on this?


So I paced back and forth for a while, trying to decide what to do about the situation.

The words “accept defeat” and “disengage” kept pinging back and forth in my brain, but so did the words “revenge” and, well, something I just can’t type for fear of offending someone.

Eventually the “Accept Defeat” part of my brain won out, but just barely. I decided to Accept Defeat by writing a nice comment on the guy’s blog. After all, bloggers love comments (hint, hint), and this guy didn’t have any on his site. If he were anywhere near as pitifully insecure as I am, then my comment would make his day and I would be one tiny step closer to enlightenment.

So I sat down at my computer. I tried to read his post more closely, but my heart stated racing again and those bad words started pinging around in my head again. Before I knew it the only thing I could think to type to him was, “I’m sorry you didn’t agree with my advice.”

Somehow I didn’t think that would work, especially if you could hear my tone of voice. It was soaking wet with sarcasm.

Crap. Crap. Crap. What to do?

I thought on it, and I thought on it, and I thought on it.

When my Dharma teacher had told me about Accepting Defeat, she’d said that I would need to balance it with wisdom. For instance, let’s say Jeffrey Dahmer were still alive and not in prison. Let’s say I woke one night to find him in my home, and he was saying something to the effect of, “I’m really in the mood for right arm tonight. I’m thinking yours looks mighty tasty.”

Should I cut off my right arm just to make Jeffrey Dahmer happy? No, I need my right arm for many things—to type (so I can get paid and put food on the table that my family can eat), to hold my daughter, and many other things that are not occurring to me at the moment. If I gave him my right arm, that would mean that I would, by default, be inflicting pain and unhappiness on myself, my husband, my daughter, and all of my beloved blog readers who would feel empty inside because I could no longer type up blog posts.

That would be a tragedy, yes?

More important, if I gave in and gave him what he wanted, then he would get away only to inflict more pain on someone else.

So for my own self-preservation and for the good of the entire world, I would rightly fight like hell to keep my right arm attached to my body.

That’s wisdom.

Wisdom says that you don’t give away more than you have to give. Wisdom says that you do what you need to do to be strong, rested, and happy. Wisdom says that you must take care of you first, otherwise you will run out of you to give away to others.

Taking care of you means you DO stand up for yourself. Taking care of you means you DO ask for what you need.

But it doesn’t mean you lash out. It doesn’t mean you seek revenge. It doesn’t mean you match anger with anger, hatred with hatred, or stupidity with stupidity.

Makes sense, right? It did for me, too.

In order to sort out the wisdom from the defeat, my Dharma teacher had suggested I ask myself two questions:

  1. What is my intention?
  2. What is the greater good?

So, I did. When I thought about leaving a comment on Mr. Smarty Pants’ blog, I realized that my intention was less than noble. My intention? It was to bring him down, down, down. More important, it would achieve no good. I might feel better temporarily, but that’s about it.

So, in yoda speak, no comment I would leave.

Instead, I decided to wish Mr. Smarty Pants some happiness when I meditated (which I have not done just yet, but I SWEAR I am going to do) and I would blog about it here. In the blog, I would not link to his blog, because doing such a thing would mean that I wanted my dear and wonderful readers to click through and flame Mr. Smarty Pants for me. No, I would not do that. My intention for blogging about it was to start an open discussion about how to handle such tough matters.

And my intention was also that possibly all of us to (or perhaps just me) could take a step closer to that place the lamas call enlightenment.

So, my lovelies, I would love to know your thoughts. What should I have done? What would you have done? How do you balance Accepting Defeat with Wisdom?

39 comments… add one

  • M. January 6, 2010, 2:30 pm

    I kind of liked your proposed comment, but I will be the first to admit that I am not enlightened. [sigh]

    While I don’t have any wisdom to share with you, I would like to thank you for writing this series of posts as they are shedding some light on a situation I am currently living through. I recently asked my wife to participate with me on a “project”. She refused and gave excuses that even she acknowledged were pretty lame. I asked her to think about the proposal and to come back and talk to me about it later. In trying to find information to address her excuses, I stumbled across the Sexis site and your blog. I sent her links to a few blog postings that felt correctly describe our current relationship. I think that if she read the links I sent her and we discussed those, it would aid our relationship at a very deep level.

    Howver, following a pattern that she has followed for 30 years, she is ignoring it and hoping that I will just drop the whole matter. Part of that is that she is not even opening the emails that I sent her containing the links.

    Part of me wants to “punish” her for treating me this way. Truth be told, I’ve been overly curt with her for the past week. I told you I wasn’t enlightened. But I know that this isn’t the way I should be reacting. I am struggling with how I can accept defeat, but be able to work with her on this aspect of our relationship. I’ll look forward to reading the other comments you are sure to receive to see how the enlightened people deal with these situations.

  • Cyndi January 6, 2010, 3:04 pm

    I think you did the right thing! I’m highly impressed. I would absolutely have wanted to slam the guy on every social networking site and his own blog, my blog, other blogs…. Right now I’m snidely thinking of how satisfying it is that he didn’t have any comments. Clearly I need to meditate today because this isn’t even my problem! :)

    Good question….how do I accept defeat with wisdom? I don’t accept defeat. You, in this situation, have not been defeated. Someone has simply disagreed with you. That is bound to happen and the more it does happen the more you will know you are reaching people. You will never reach everyone and some people simply enjoy starting arguments to make themselves feel better or even to increase traffic to their blogs.

    You acknowledged your feelings, you realized where they were coming from, you did not lash out and you expressed yourself honestly. Perfection!
    .-= Cyndi´s last blog ..By: swapna =-.

  • Michelle January 6, 2010, 4:03 pm

    Let this one go right pass you Alisa he obviously doesn’t appreciate you sense of humor.
    P.S. I just deleted what I really wanted to say LOL!

  • Julie Roads January 6, 2010, 4:06 pm

    ‘anger begets more anger’ – that is so good. And so is the part about balancing your acceptance of defeat with wisdom. (Huh, reminds me of a post about self-absorption and self-preservation I read somewhere…) And so are the questions you ask before you act. It’s all brilliant. And I’m very proud of you (not in a condescending way). This was a hard one. I’ve experienced it first hand.

    The other thing to remember is that time heals all wounds: your upset will soften and then disappear.

    The other, other thing to remember is that time wounds all heals: karma’s a bitch and yours, in this case surely, is clean. His? We can’t be to sure.

  • JohnMcG January 6, 2010, 4:11 pm

    I’m far from an expert, but it seems you need to separate two issues, which seem to be entangled:

    1. Whether or not your wife wants to participate in the project.
    2. Ignoring your e-mails.

    I would say your wife has a right to not want to participate in the project (and you have a right to be disappointed), and not have her reasons for not doing so picked apart.

    I don’t think there’s a place in a healthy marriage for things like ignoring your e-mails.

    So I would recommend working to accept defeat on the first issue, and then work on the second issue without mixing it up with the second.

  • Alisa January 6, 2010, 4:24 pm

    M–I’m thinking that you need to talk about how you feel when she shuts down. That’s the first issue you have to solve–her shutting down. If she refuses to participate, then you can’t move forward. Put the larger project on hold until you’ve had that conversation. Be very specific, because most people have a communication style that they’ve used their entire lives, and they’ve used it because it’s worked for them. For instance, my husband tends to tell lies, and he learned to do this to get his mother off his back. It worked with her, but it doesn’t work with me. Yours is a similar situation.

  • Michelle January 6, 2010, 5:16 pm

    Alisa, bravo….I like the way you said “my husband tends to tell lies”. So there Mr. Samarty pants. LMAO

  • MARY January 6, 2010, 6:40 pm

    I’m a tell it like it is person and a wear my heart on my sleeve person. No enlightenment. Would’ve told him to bite me. I’m curious as to whether not responding to his negativity has empowered you or is it eating at you?

  • Rhiannon January 6, 2010, 8:55 pm

    You are so much of a better woman than I am! I would have been all over that guy’s blog, leaving a snarky retort (stated as tactfully as possible). But, I’m sure the enlightenment approach works much better for your karma than my way would. Good job!

    And, for the record, you are an awesome blogger and an incredible writer…and I love how you say things about marriage that I totally WANT to say if I could articulate it better. You tell it like it is…and you’re much more interesting because of it.

    By the way, why the heck is a guy critiquing a Woman’s Day article? That’s like a woman criticizing a Playboy article. No credibility. Whatsoever.

  • Robert Keteyian January 6, 2010, 8:57 pm

    Clearly, you were not defeated.
    Way to go!

  • Melissa January 6, 2010, 9:35 pm

    I googled the phrase about the iceberg/Titanic and easily found the offending blog. I glanced through it. Dude, you have no competition there. A lot of saccharine foo-fah. Am I being snarky? Yes! But I thought you might enjoy it just the same.

  • Teresa January 6, 2010, 9:35 pm

    Your blog has helped me. The comments left by others who read your blog have helped me. Thank you for your candor and thanks to your husband for agreeing to be blogged about. Maybe he could read the article and post a comment.

  • Nakita January 6, 2010, 9:46 pm

    I’ve been the person that “confronted” everyone with kindness. No matter who was right, wrong, or just plain mean. I smiled, forgave and wished them well. I wasn’t seeking enlightment. I’m not sure I had any agenda.

    For the last few years I have been exhausted. I had been so nice for so long, it was the only way I knew how to be. And it was exhausting! All I had ever done was accept defeat.

    I woke up one day and was just pissed! Pissed at myself for being a doormat all my life. Pissed at everyone that had taken advantage of my good nature. I ranted for a few days about all the things I was pissed about… but I won’t relive those hours now. I’m not on the other extreme of this now. I let it all out during the long rant; which my husband listened to in fear for his life.

    I came through all this with an appreciation for exactly what you said, “Taking care of you means you DO stand up for yourself. Taking care of you means you DO ask for what you need.” I am so much happier asserting myself when the situation calls for it. I still forgive people for the small injustices throughout the day. But when it matters, I stand up for myself.

  • Alisa January 6, 2010, 9:54 pm

    Mary–this isn’t eating at me. But I think that’s the case because I made a firm decision on the matter. And I don’t feel wrong. I think things eat at you when there a tiny bit of insecurity–a button that can be pushed. I’m not sure if that makes sense. I’m just making that up, actually. Also, this is a nameless, faceless person (for the most part) so it’s easier to just put behind me. If one of my close friends said the same? That would be harder. I’ll blog about the day THAT happens and we can all discuss further…

  • Kelly J. January 7, 2010, 12:32 am

    I have had a hard time reading these Accepting Defeat blogs. My heart races when I read what you are thinking and what is happening and let me tell you, I would be the devil on your shoulder. My anger is like a firecracker! However, I do admire that you’re able to walk away and let it ride. In the example that you wrote today, I def. would have written him back but it would not have ended well at all. I think that not writing anything at all was your best idea. Who knows? Maybe since he talked about it on his site, he might have unwittingly sent over even more readers who will fall in love with you!

  • Doug Steponin January 7, 2010, 8:35 am

    I have always believed that success is the best revenge. It doesn’t technically hurt the other guy, but it make you happier.

    I am not even going to ask your permission, Alisa, to increase your success. I am just going to start! I have posted this article on twitter and will be reposting the entire article on my blog.

    To all you other readers out there, Alisa is clearly to modest to ask for our help, so I am going to do it for her! Take your favorite post and send it to your entire database. Email it, twitter it, put it on your facebook! Le’ts boost HER rankings so high up that she can become immune to the pain of criticism.

    (Coincidentally, the more popular she becomes, the more critics will surface, so get ready! A rising tide lifts all ships, both positive and negative)

  • Doug Steponin January 7, 2010, 8:37 am

    correction: make(s)

    Note to self…stop answering blogs before coffee…

  • Alisa Bowman January 7, 2010, 9:13 am

    Doug–have I told you lately how much I love you?
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..How to Accept Defeat, Part 3 =-.

  • Rick January 7, 2010, 9:40 am

    Response to M. – Suggestion to Tell her how you “feel” about. Don’t hint, suggest, or hope she understands. Say it, with respect for her and where she is. Remember, you have established a negative pattern and now need to start better habits of communication.

    “I feel hurt and frustrated that we are not sharing and talking about something that is important to me. I want to share my thoughts and ideas with the most important person in my life – you. Can we talk about it? It means a lot to me and I think the project can be enjoyable. I will gladly listen to your thoughts and opinions. Let’s set aside some quiet time to share.”

  • Rick January 7, 2010, 9:41 am

    E. – IF you happen upon this site. I love you and I miss you!

  • Maureen January 7, 2010, 10:30 am

    Silly girl. You must know that your readers would not give one flying hoot for what Mr Smarty Pants has to say. Right? Because that is exactly true.
    I think you did an awesome job and my two questions for the week will be
    1. what are my intentions….
    Yes and I too will meditate, as soon as…..

  • Mindy January 7, 2010, 2:21 pm

    I give you kuddos for doing the “right thing”. I do think it was the right thing, but certainly not the easy thing. You are the better person and it WILL pay off in the long run!

  • Stephanie January 7, 2010, 2:36 pm

    PERFECTLY handled. One of the questions I ask myself in situations like this is “how will I feel if I do this?” If any of the words “righteous, proud, superior, special, smug, justified” or any of the like come to mind, I remind myself that that’s not what I’m in this for.

  • Vera Marie Badertscher January 7, 2010, 4:49 pm

    You done good. But I still would like to flame him.
    I’m not so good.
    .-= Vera Marie Badertscher´s last blog ..Looking Back and Travel and Books =-.

  • Mrs. Levine January 7, 2010, 8:43 pm

    I recently read Elizabeth Weil’s article called, “Married (Happily) With Issues,” and the comments on the that followed. They were brutal. I couldn’t believe that people could be so aggressive and mean when this writer had written such a heartfelt piece on marriage. It made me want to delete my blog and throw away the key.

    You definitely did the right thing, and I’m sorry you had to go through it. Some people feel better when they tear down others, but you forced yourself to remember that the path he took is not the one to fulfillment and happiness. It’s better to let him fester than take it on yourself.

  • Rosie January 8, 2010, 4:58 am

    It sucks when these things happen and my usual response is to try ignore them until I don’t care. Ignoring involves a few rants to my husband and then.. not talking about it anymore. This may be working well or giving me ulcers. It depends how often I have to face these ‘violent communicators.’ Anyway, do what works for you and keep blogging. I think you have great things to say!

  • Alexandra January 8, 2010, 11:19 am

    I think that it becomes easier to accept when one is older. I’m glad you are sharing these life lessons with us!

  • Christina January 8, 2010, 5:55 pm

    Such a timely post in my life. I am currently living in an alternative style marriage. My husband and I are in a relationship with another couple…..I have seen it defined as polyamory….anyway, this last week, my girlfriends mother-in law found out about our arrangements….since her discovery, many MANY hateful words and emails and facebook comments from her have followed. I haven’t responded to one…….but EVERY single one makes me want to tear her face off for being so ignorant and uncompassionate, so wrongly judgemental….but then I remember that that is me being judgemental and I sigh…..moving on further down the path of enlightenment so my children can be proud of their mother…..Great post and fantastic decision.

  • Cam January 8, 2010, 11:20 pm

    I have to hand it to ya Alisa! I tend to act first and think later. I’m working on that as we go into the new year. I would have felt guilty afterwards but the act of doing it would have felt good, justified.

  • Edgy Mama January 9, 2010, 1:07 pm

    Good thinking and not acting out, Alisa. I wish more people had your sense (and sensibilities). I go through a similar thought process on a regular basis (the negative side of being a weekly newspaper columnist). I tend either to ignore the dis, or respond, if appropriate, positively. All decisions are based on the specific situation. In this situation, I think you did well.

  • Sheryl January 9, 2010, 6:01 pm

    I think you did what works best for you – bravo – and it is very similar to what (I’ve learned over the years; it took me so long to learn) I’d do now.

    It’s the same with forgiveness -I’m trying very hard to learn to forgive, and it’s more for myself than for the other person.

    So many times I’m tempted to lash out or seek revenge after being hurt. But I think about how I will feel about myself afterwards (lousy) and how that only brings me down to the level of the other person (lousier). And waiting a day or two does wonders to resist the urge. And somehow I walk away feeling noble and wiser.

  • Meredith Resnick - The Writer's [Inner] Journey January 9, 2010, 11:14 pm

    “Wisdom says that you don’t give away more than you have to give.” So true. And we mess ourselves up when we think it’s actually possible to even think we can!
    .-= Meredith Resnick – The Writer’s [Inner] Journey´s last blog ..I am in a relationship with money whether I want to believe it or not. =-.

  • kcl January 10, 2010, 10:03 pm

    Alisa, I think you showed remarkable restraint in not commenting on Mr. Smarty Pants’s blog post. I don’t see what would’ve been wrong about your responding that you were sorry he didn’t agree with your advice—there’s nothing obviously sarcastic or snarky about that. You would be within your rights to point out that the advice you gave has in fact helped improve your marriage and that the readers of your blog leave comments to the effect that your advice helps their relationships as well. These things are just truths, not negative reflections on Mr. Pants. No reason you shouldn’t put the truth out there at every possible opportunity. I’d also be interested to know on what Mr. Pants based his assertion that your advice was bad. Did he have any evidence—even anecdotal—to support that? Or was it just his opinion? I think that would be a fair question to ask. If there is such a thing as karma, shouldn’t responding to his knee-jerk reaction with your own thoughtful, measured one set you up for additional measured thoughts being directed toward you?

    • Alisa January 11, 2010, 7:26 am

      KCL–That’s an interesting take, that I might owe it to the universe (so to speak) to continually speak my truth. To answer your question about Mr. Pants, I’d said that it’s difficult to remain attracted to one’s partner after many years, that attraction wanes for most people. He took issue with this, basically saying that there was something wrong with people who were no longer attracted to their spouses, that they are really still attracted to their spouses but they don’t know it because they keep telling themselves that they are not. I’m not sure if I’m paraphrasing him well, but I can say this. He and I? We come from two different planets. I don’t think I could ever get him to see things my way because he refuses to admit that marriage could ever be hard. It would be like a democrat and a republican arguing about social reform. Just. Not. Evah. Gonna. Agree. Anyway, it occurred to me that leaving any comment on his blog would end up starting up a long running argument between us. And, when I checked my intention, it really wasn’t noble.

  • Casey January 11, 2010, 1:07 pm

    You did the right thing. I have learned a lot lately to pick your battles is it worth the stress of the whole situation? Usually it’s not so I just grin and bear it. But when It is kick some ass…

  • OneHotTamale25 January 18, 2010, 2:17 am

    Alisa, I appreciate you acknowledging part of the ease being found in the fact that the writer of the article was largely nameless and faceless for you. I definitely commend your behavior. I like to believe I would take the same approach to a nameless faceless critic (after a bit of mulling over ripping his heart out of his chest via my written retort). Had that been my husband saying such a thing — Internet or otherwise — I am quite certain I would have needed to revisit your pancake defeat before I could even sit in the same room with him!

    It is my belief that choosing not to retaliate gives us the opportunity to be mindful of all the different things that could impact the words and deeds of others. Perhaps that person really does not like your blog, and that is fine. Or, perhaps that person just had a really bad day and you got the short end of the projected emotion stick. Perhaps that woman did have bad intentions toward you at the gas pump. Or perhaps (as you found) she had none and just wanted to be a responsible driver. Perhaps the person who cuts me off at the grocery store is an explicative. Or perhaps the person has more pressing matters than I that are at the forefront of the mind and prevented the person from even realizing s/he was cutting in line. Every coin has two sides.

  • Scott January 19, 2010, 1:28 pm

    It seems to be a very nice blog you run.

    Incidentally, there’s a book I read about two years ago that addressed such a concern- how to assert your right to, say, your own right arm. It was called The Power of a Positive No, (William Ury), and endeavored to demonstrate that a person could, indeed, dissent without being a jerk.

    In summary, the prescribed process has three parts: Affirm your positive intent; Say no; Describe and cultivate an alternative.

    Of course, this is to grossly oversimplify, but a further preview of the book can be found here:

    It is, I think, a fascinating question. Best of luck.

  • Zara January 24, 2010, 2:08 pm

    I like this post very much. It addresses a problem I have been facing for about a year. I guess the only good response at this stage is “no response”, which you have chosen. Starting an argument with someone who doesn’t want to listen or understand is stupid. We all, in our “non-englightened” minds can agree to it.
    However, if you take the other person’s point of view, you can come to quite interesting ideas:
    1) maybe this person just didn’t understand your advice, misinterpereted it, and so it was of no use to them – then, there comes the following question: Could you have formulated your advice in a way that would enable this person benefit from it?
    2) maybe, the situation of this person is so bad, or so different from any other similar situations, that mild advice seems just ridiculous. Strong negativity may show that the person is trying to cope with a very negative situation, and hasn’t found anyone who would provide useful advice yet. I HOPE THE SITUATION OF THIS PERSON WILL IMPROVE SOON. Sometimes people find themselves in situations which can’t be solved by reading internet blogs, neither by consulting anyone available. I HOPE THIS PERSON WILL FIND A PEACEFUL MIND TO FIND THEIR OWN UNIQUE CREATIVE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM WHICH THEY ARE TRYING TO SOLVE. It’s easy for me to say, I know, since I am not involved personally.
    thanks for the interesting post :-)
    negativity isn’t always bad :-)
    but I do get upset as well when I am misunderstood :-)
    even though I know how important it is for me is NOT TO get upset…
    because I know that if I don’t get upset I will be able to fight negativity better…
    well, it’s a long way to go, at least for me :-)

  • Wambui December 31, 2010, 6:18 am

    What a coincidence for me to have stumbled upon your blog. Better yet I went to the archives and these first few blogs are actually speaking to a current situation between me and my boyfriend. I am the person that has to have the last word… that has to be right most of the times, that is ready to dish it but can’t take it. Unfortunately for me, I am now a little enlightened and I know better so am accountable to myself before I can be accountable to others. I will try to loose with dignity and really truly let it go. Thanks Alisa for your wonderful blog. I will keep reading so help me God :)


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