“What the heck, I feel offended.” (Religion pushers)

About ten years ago I gave a friend a book on Zen. It wasn’t anything she asked for. I had just read some stories in it that I thought might be helpful for what she was going through at that time, so I gave it to her.

The next time we saw each other, she gave me a book on Christianity. My immediate reaction was, “What the heck, I’m not into Christianity. I feel offended!”

Within a few minutes I laughed at myself as I realized that I had created this situation. It hit me that I offended her first by saying, “Here’s some stuff about (what you might perceive as) a religion,” and then she responded in kind. (My exact thought was, “OMG Al, you’ve become a Religion Pusher.”)

As a result, these days I don’t offer anyone any books on Zen or mindfulness. If someone is at my place and asks if they can have one of my books, I always tell them to take whatever they want. (By doing this I think I’m on my fourth copy of Zen Master Raven.) But my days of offering unsolicited books ended ten years ago.

Even when I feel the urge to do this — when I see someone struggling with things that mindfulness can help, such as people bringing stress onto themselves like a sponge absorbs water — I have learned how offensive it is for other people to push their religious beliefs on me, so I don’t go there.

(I was reminded of this recently when someone else tried to push their religious beliefs onto me.)