There’s an old teaching that says that if you want to keep a crab in a bucket, stick another one in there with him. A crab, by himself, will escape every time, but a second crab will pull him back down every time.
I don’t know if this has been true for you … well, maybe I do. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely been the climbing crab. In moments of weakness, you may even have been the “lonely” crab. Whatever your experience, the idea is that that a person accomplishes something generally regarded as good, and then gets criticized for it. Suddenly he’s a “brown-noser,” a “sell-out,” “soulless,” She’s only “doing it for the money” or “the glory.”
Most often, those lonely crabs are gripped with a sense that they could be doing more but are unable to do so for some reason. Unconsciously, (usually) the only way to avoid being faced with their inadequacy—perceived or real—is to keep that darn overachiever down, to bring her back to earth or knock him down a few notches, so to speak.
Usually, these comments are said behind the back of the perceived overachiever, but not always. I’ve even seen it in spiritual communities. I’ve seen this frequently. When it happens, it’s the opposite of a helpful, generous and unifying spirit, which are hallmarks of spiritual connection. It’s the epitome of a contrary force: discordant, separating, mocking … there’s nothing about the latter that has to do with the creation of something beautiful, rather it be a person, a community or cause. These latter adjectives are what I, in my former standard Christian days, once used to describe dark or evil communication.
It’s easy to recognize. If it’s not building, it’s tearing down. This happens even in nature. Often tearing down is the precursor to growth. But this isn’t what I’m talking about. The “tearing down” to which I’m referring isn’t organic, it’s egoic. It’s man-made and generally insane.
But I’m not only talking about the criticism from others. I’m also talking about self-talk.
In Lakota spirituality, if you’re a pipe-carrier, you’ve been asked to serve the people through prayer in that way. You’re in service to the people, and your tool is, aside from your integrity, the pipe. The pipe is the tool that you use to serve. Before we even handle it, we smudge our hands to purify them because it’s sacred, a tool to be used to bring people together, to heal them and help them fall more in love with life—and the Giver of it.
Whether you’re a pipe carrier or not, we all have the same job. To heal. To reach out to those in need. To love—not only the ones that love us—but everyone, even the unlovable. An emotionally mature man is able to put his own egoic judgments aside and just jump in and get to work. Jesus was good at this. So was Gandhi. Mother Teresa was famous for it, as have been any of the holy ones we say that we revere.
All this said, that sacred vehicle called your Being is also a tool to use to serve. The whole You is here for a purpose. It’s up to you to find out what that is. Generally, however, we are here to unify, to bring the lost and hurting in when they’re ready, with no judgment if they choose to stay outside for now. To be more specific, mind, body, and soul are the ultimate service tools. Every human being is sacred and unique, like the pipe.
What throws us off so often is our own “crab in a bucket” mind. Those spinning thoughts; the ones that tell us we’re unworthy, trying to “be someone” (if I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that to myself or heard it spoken in some other context…) Let me restate that Creator unifies and a less-helpful being separates. The trick is to be conscious enough of our thoughts to in order to recognize the difference. After all, the fact that there’s such a thing as constructive criticism implies that the opposite also exists. This applies to self-talk as well.
What I hope to communicate is that our presence here, in this place and plane, is a holy calling, no matter what contrary messages come to you, or how. The body you inhabit is a tool to lift others. You’re here to roll up your sleeves and get to work. I’m not a standard Christian by any means, but I love this about Jesus. Since it’s Easter, many who claim to follow him are wont to concentrate on the resurrection. I submit that the most useful part of Jesus’ walk while we’re here, are his examples of service. There’s no way he would have been effective had he allowed his mind to act like that lonely crab. In fact, it’s apparent from the Gospels that he heard it time and again from the Pharisees… “aren’t you the son of a carpenter?” “Has any good thing come out of Galilee?” “Who do you think you are?” These were all questions asked him by lonely crabs.
He didn’t listen to the human ones—or the ones that surely came to him from within his own mind and experience.
Those of us who know we are here to serve, really know it, aren’t too concerned with the naysayers. But when we forget, that’s when we’re in danger of forgetting that we, each of us, came here to do something great, to serve and love beyond the bounds – because the only bounds that exist are the ones spoken by the lonely crab.
Whether it comes to us in human or thought form, my advice is to release it with love and climb out into the world.
And then work like the sacred being you are.
Photo: Getty Images