“Sniper” and “snipe”….some interesting definitions:
Sni·per [snī’pər] n. 1) a skilled military shooter detailed to spot and pick off enemy soldiers from a concealed place; 2) one who shoots at other people from a concealed place.
Snipe [snahyp] v. 1) to shoot at individuals as opportunity offers from a concealed or distant position; 2) to attack a person or person’s work with petulant or snide criticism, esp. anonymously or from a safe distance.
So…who is your sniper? We all have them. They’re the people in our lives that intentionally (or unintentionally) leverage attacks at us to somehow change what we’re doing. The idea there is that other people can change who we are and what we do. It isn’t true, of course, but it seems to be a commonly held belief. The main difference is that snipers in our lives, unlike the snipers in the military, for example, can act deliberately OR unintentionally.
Oftentimes “sniping” is a learned behavior. We pick it up from our parents, siblings, colleagues, classmates….the list goes on and on. We take a defensive posture by attacking that which is nearest to us, or threatening us the most. We’ve all done this, and we’ve all learned it from somewhere. That is to say, we weren’t born with it. So, we all have snipers in our lives, and we’ve all been a sniper. It’s not something to be proud of – it’s just fact. The sooner you accept it, the sooner you can do something about it.
I’ve been a sniper – with incredible aim, I might add. I’ve pointed my rifle in directions I never wanted to, and I fired – because I was hurt, or threatened, or sometimes out of habit. I’m not proud of it, but I’ve accepted it. And someday I’ll be able to truly own up to it and make amends to those folks I intentionally, or unintentionally, tried to wound, or change. In the meantime, however, it’s enough to know that I’ve done it and that I’m capable of it. It will help me to put down that gun. It’s not a perfect acceptance though – I will take aim and fire again. It’s a behavior that requires vigilance and time in order to change. But I’m more willing to make those changes now that I realize the truth of it all. That’s something that wouldn’t have been possible 2-3 years ago.
So….where does that leave us? I think, for the most part, we can all think of someone that we have fired at – whether it came out sideways, or directly in front of us. But have we thought about how we have been our own sniper?….Taking aim directly at ourselves on a daily basis? It’s scary, isn’t it? But the truth is, most of us (me included) are even more highly trained to be snipers on ourselves than we are on the rest of the world. And usually, when we take aim at ourselves, that’s when our sniping comes out sideways at someone else. Think of it. Think back to the last time you were really disappointed in yourself, frustrated or angry. Did you keep it all aimed at your own head, or did some of it come out at someone else around you? It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s human nature. Of course we don’t want to have a gun pointing at our own heads – so the natural defense (and survival method) is to diffuse the situation by releasing some of that sniping emotion onto someone else. But that doesn’t solve anything. It only hurts more people and creates a more intense situation.
What would happen if we, instead, learned to put the gun down? It’s a HUGE step, I know – I’m living it. But it’s a step worth taking. Sometimes, you even have to start by simply taking the bullets out of the gun. That can be hard enough. But once you take that first bullet out of the stock, there is a real sense of freedom and peace. Living life with a gun pointed at your head, by your own hand, is not free. Living life with other people’s guns pointed at you, because of their own sniping behavior is difficult, but it doesn’t impact your freedom. Here’s why…
When others are pointing their guns at you – you have a choice. You can 1) wear a bullet-proof vest, 2) lie down and play dead, 3) take all the bullets and live life like a martyr or victim, 4) fire back, or 5) behave like Neo in ‘The Matrix” and simply not accept the bullets as part of your reality. A tall order? Maybe, but a choice nonetheless. It’s when the gun pointed at us is held by our own hands that our freedom is impacted. You can’t be free to be who you are and do what you want or need to do, with one hand holding a gun pointed at your own head. It’s that simple. There is no freedom in constantly monitoring ourselves from a threatening position. There is only disbelief and fear. We end up creating other “stories” or realities in order to justify the gun being there. We have to – otherwise the truth would hurt too much. Just knowing that we are capable of hurting ourselves in this way, hurts.
What is sniping at ourselves? Self-criticism, self-hate, self-destruction, self-fear, self-loathing….and on and on. It’s even something as simple as looking in the mirror in the morning and having a negative thought about yourself, or choosing unhealthy food options, when you know it’s going to make you sick. It’s damaging and hurtful, and we do it to ourselves. But here’s the best part…..While we know we can’t change others, we can change ourselves. Again, we have choice: put the gun down, take out the bullets, or continue with the status quo.
So, the next time you’re criticizing yourself, or feeling like you “should” have done something more, or something better….think of those words and thoughts as bullets, in your own gun, pointed at your own head. What would you choose to do or say about it? And here’s another way to look at it, if you feel stuck: If it were your best friend – what would you choose?
In love and light,