Best Friend Nemesis

How To Love Challenging People

Editor's Note:

This Week In Peace chronicles the true life experiences of Khalilah Ramirez, a peace-centric performance artist in San Jose. These accounts are relevant because they involve all of us. The entire community benefits when we share our stories. Weekly classes schedules, performance dates and general info about the Dance of Peace can be obtained by emailing [email protected]

Welcome to This Week In Peace! Khalilah The Peace Dancer here with the latest installment of awesome applicable stories to boost the quality of our lives immediately. Well, in three to five minutes or so.

Three years ago, activist Sharat Lin (@danceofpeace) began taking classes to learn the Dance of Peace. He was a prominent community organizer, photographer and lecturer who served on the board at San Jose Peace and Justice Center. He did well in the classes, paying utmost attention to the movements. I saw him as an apt pupil. I was pleased by the fact that he was eager to break social norms by daring to become a male dancer in his 60's. We saw each other at community events, eventually becoming friends. Sharat was always kind and mild-mannered so imagine my surprise when he started an Instagram account, featuring himself and calling it 'Dance of Peace.''

I called him immediately. "Hey!" I said, irritated. "You need to change your handle. You are not 'Dance of Peace.' I am. You did not get permission from me to use my name. Find your own!" 

"Well, technically you didn't trademark the name. I can use it if I want". My irritation turned to anger in a flash. Who did he think he was anyway? For him to represent the Dance of Peace in public without my permission or consent felt like he was stealing from me. I told him this, expecting him to see my point of view and immediately comply. He said, "Well, it's up to you if you want to see it that way." 


Everyone who knows me knows that the Dance of Peace is personal to me. I created this art form, then cultivated it for over 10 years with the help of the incredible people and communities in San Jose. The fact that this MAN thought he could go out into the world imitating me, representing as me and stealing my art ideas was more than I could bear. I took a day off from work to resolve the matter in my own mind. As a peace dancer, a large part of my work is to facilitate peace. That includes, but is not limited to, putting my personal feelings on hold while exploring the quickest path to harmony in any situation. "Well Miss 'Peace Dancer' ", I said out loud to myself, "what are you going to do about this?" The following is a list of the answers my intuition gave me during my soul-searching around this matter:

1) Personal Responsibility: Responsibility means knowing that whatever shows up in my life, I am in charge of it. It's up to me to handle each person and situation with fairness and understanding. How could I do that this time, though? I was so angry! Anger is a powerful emotion. It is swift and addictive as any drug. Anger is not bad or wrong, but it's dangerous in relationships. It blinds us to what is really happening. We get swept away by the sensation, justifying our own behavior and making sure the other person knows just how wrong they are. Taking personal responsibility for the events and people in our lives puts us back in control. It banishes the victim mentality, which holds us back from healing our situations.

2) Forgiveness: Forgiveness is more than just a pretty concept. It is an active verb, something we work daily. Holding on to hurts and wrongdoing reduces our quality of life and well-being. Refusing to forgive has negative effects on our health as well, causing disruptions in the mind, body and spirit. Forgiveness does not make offenses disappear. Forgiveness makes it so that we don't  dwell on the negative aspects of a person or situation. It means that we let pain and anger flow out of us instead of burying it deep inside. Forgiving everyone, especially ourselves, has countless positive effects on our lives. How does one forgive? With deliberate practice. Say "I forgive (whoever) for (whatever). Say it aloud daily, even if you don't really feel it in your heart yet. Forgiveness is a gift to ourselves, adding years to our life and life to our years.

3) Patience: When is a person most annoying? A person is most annoying when they fail to behave the way we think they should. In reality, it's not up to us to decide how other people should behave. Friends and family are especially at risk for our disapproval because they are closest to us. Ask yourself: Does this person add value to my life? If the answer is yes as it was in this case, have patience with the person and yourself. It takes time to learn to harmonize with others. Meanwhile, focus on the good in the relationship and life in general, feeling gratitude for all of it. 

Long story short, my friend Sharat and I decided to split the difference. We agree to disagree. We meet regularly, talking about our progress and activities around the Dance of Peace. We laugh heartily at ourselves when we offend each other for the thousandth time and need to apologize again. His earnest peace dancing efforts have proven to be a wonderful contribution, helping to spread the message of light, love and joy. His friendship has helped me to achieve higher levels of humility, which I appreciate. His journey of becoming a peace dancer demonstrates the fact that the Dance of Peace has a life of it's own, a purpose much bigger than one person. That purpose is to foster peace everywhere, for everyone. Who am I to argue with that? 

Thanks and see you out there!

More of This Week in Peace:
The Boldness Boon
Ice From The Sky
Angola Bound