Injustice is all around us, from suffering in our own communities to tragic news stories from the complete other side of the world. Think about the last time you saw injustice or unfairness in your life. Maybe you saw a coworker being treated harshly, encountered a homeless person struggling to find shelter on a cold night, or read a news story about children in the Middle East suffering during a humanitarian crisis.
How did you react, or want to react? For some of us, the natural reaction is anger. Others might gravitate toward leniency or de-escalation. We may even feel too caught up in helplessness or overwhelmed to do anything at all. We just go numb.
In this episode, we’ll dissect the idea of “right action” and discuss how to choose kindness and compassion without compromising your boundaries or becoming a doormat. Nina shares a stirring personal story about a time she witnessed injustice, which illuminates why we all have the power to pursue righteous rebellion and make a huge difference in someone else’s world.
This episode is part of an enriching series on the Beatitudes: 8 Keys to Happiness. To learn more about how to use these eight keys as a guiding compass on your path toward authentic happiness, listen to the previous episodes in the series and stay tuned for the next episode!
Welcome back to the Holy Rebels Podcast. We’re exploring a series about the 8 keys to happiness, also known as the ancient wisdom of the Beatitudes. The word beatitude means ‘blessing of happiness’. Each of these keys is like a deep paradox explaining the mysteries of the human condition. They’re invitations to connect personally with the divine and experience more joy, purpose, and fulfillment in your life. This is the 4th episode in this series, and I recommend listening to this series in order.
Today, we’re diving deep into Beatitude 4: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” I’m so excited to explore this one with you. There’s a lot of power behind this beatitude because it’s about our human longing for true cosmic order in our personal lives, in our interpersonal relationships, and also on the large-scale community level.
Oh, before we jump in— at the end of this episode, I have a gift for you. If you’ve been enjoying the Holy Rebels Podcast, and you’re following the Beatitudes series, you’re going to find tremendous inspiration in this gift. It’s valued at $97, but I’m giving it to you for free, no strings attached, because it’s something I want you to have. I poured my heart into creating it for you. So, stick around at the end because I’ll reveal what this is and I’ll share the details.
So, I have a question for you… What is the first thing you need to do to create a sense of balance and harmony within you?
According to Plato, true righteousness, or justice is about finding balance within you. I really like the Buddhist definition of “righteousness” on the noble 8-fold path. They call it “right-relationship”.
Right-relationship with self begins by fostering deep self-respect. You have to know that you are worthy of living a peaceful, harmonious life. All your thoughts and behaviors will flow from how you respect yourself and how you protect your peace.
There’s a story about the Dalai Lama. When His Holiness began teaching Tibetan Buddhism to Westerners, he was confused, and a little bit horrified, because the basis of all Tibetan compassion practices is to open your heart and have compassion for others, as you would with yourself.
Well, he was shocked to learn that many Westerners don’t love themselves. This lack of self-love, of self-compassion, makes connection with others more fraught with neediness and insecurity. And, on the other hand, being in a stable, loving relationship (romantic or otherwise) can be the fastest way to learn one’s own value in the eyes of a compassionate other.
In the Western world, we have philosophically separated our minds and spirits from our bodies, and much of our self-loathing expresses itself through the loathing of our physical bodies. Many of us walk around like we are simply “heads” with this thing we ignore, that dangles below our neck. It’s silly! And it’s harmful. Reconnecting with your body is essential to your wellbeing, your mental health, and to your ability to have right-relationship with yourself.
If you respect yourself your life will overflow with good things. And that’s because your core belief that you are worthy will drive your actions and lead to results—it will lead to a meaningful, fulfilling life—a life that sprouts out of adhering to your principles, even in challenging circumstances—this is a truly righteous life.
Self-respect comes from having deeply held principals that act as a compass by which you guide your actions, decisions, and interactions. Adhering to your principles may not always be the easy path. It might require you to stand alone, or to face disapproval. However, in the long run, the way you stick to your principles (or not) shapes your identity, earns you respect from others, and most importantly cultivates a sense of self-worth.
Consistently maintaining your principles sends a clear message to yourself and others about what you stand for. It shows that you value yourself and you won’t compromise your integrity for temporary gains. Integrity draws people towards you and nurtures healthy relationships based on mutual respect.
Consider a scenario at work, or a project you’re part of, where your ideas are often overlooked or disregarded. In such a situation, seeking justice could involve confidently voicing your opinions and ideas and clearly demonstrating your knowledge and expertise. You’re not necessarily correcting anyone else’s behavior, but you’re treating yourself how you’d like others to treat you too. You are valuing your contributions and believe that they deserve to be recognized.
Now consider a social setting where your personal boundaries are continually being pushed. Seeking justice in this context could mean reinforcing your boundaries and expressing your discomfort when they’re crossed. Speaking up is a potent way of nurturing your relationship with yourself and conveying self-respect to signal to others that they need to respect you and your boundaries as well, or else you’ll reinforce them or take yourself out of that situation.
Seeking justice isn’t merely about battling external injustices. It also concerns acknowledging and asserting your self-worth—to yourself—by maintaining personal integrity, and upholding a standard you have for yourself. You get to decide what that standard is. What feels good to you? How do you want to be treated? Most importantly— How will you treat yourself? It starts with you. When you’re deciding your boundaries, you also need to figure out what you’re going to do if your boundaries are crossed or your standards aren’t met by a situation or a person.
That doesn’t mean everyone will respect your boundaries, but those who don’t won’t stay in your life. When you stick to your principles, you’re creating an environment of respect, trust, and positivity, which inevitably brings forth fairness and justice.
True justice means that you correct harm without doing harm. It is a balancing act of strength and kindness—not being overly aggressive—or overly agreeable.
Anger, when acknowledged and managed appropriately, becomes the vital tool you need to create more self-awareness. And remember the wisdom of Socrates: “know thyself”—that’s the goal. The more self-aware you are, the free-er you are to consciously create your life. Anger is your built-in alarm system. It alerts you whenever your personal boundaries are being crossed. If you disregard the signals and suppress your anger, you risk creating a deeply ingrained habit of self-negation, which leads to emotional disconnection. In other word, if you ignore your anger, and you push it down, then you’re ignoring your internal alarm system and numbing your feelings. Not only are you alienating yourself from what’s important to you, you’re simmering in a deep sense of resentment. That has toxic consequences for you. For example, you’ll start to feel like a victim. You will feel powerless, ineffective, unworthy. You’ll blame external factors and other people for your unhappiness. You’ll be out of touch with your feelings. You’ll lose motivation, confidence, it’s terrible! I don’t want that for you. YOU don’t want that for you.
So while you might think in the moment that negotiating boundaries is just you being flexible, if you do this long term, there are serious consequences.
Ignoring your anger creates an internal void, a detached state where you can no longer be genuinely engaged with your life. The things you used to feel passionate about slowly drain away. You don’t feel a sense of purpose. You’re merely existing. Understanding and making space for your anger to exist—to be heard by you— is not just about asserting boundaries. It’s part of your internal compass that’s guiding you to happiness.
Stop making excuses for other people when they hurt you and you don’t stand up for yourself or remove yourself from the situation. We say to ourselves: “oh, well they didn’t mean it”, or “I don’t want to cause a problem so I better not say anything”, or “It’s not a big deal”. I’m not saying don’t be flexible, sometimes it’s not a big deal, but you need to reflect on that and discern which boundaries are truly flexible and which are non-negotiable.
If you’re making excuses for yourself or other people to stay in situations where your non-negotiable boundaries are being crossed, then you’re convincing yourself that you are not worthy of respect and that your feelings don’t matter. As a consequence, you’ll be living someone’s else’s life, or you’ll feel unfulfilled. You don’t deserve that. You deserve happiness. You CAN be happy. It is your birthright.
That’s why this beatitude is “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” It means: You are blessed when you’re in touch with what’s important to you, for then you will be fulfilled. You are fortunate when you stand up for respect, for cosmic justice will be achieved.
We hear the word “boundaries”, but many of us have no idea what they are or how to uphold them. You might think of boundaries as something like a property line or “brick wall” used to keep people out. But boundaries aren’t rigid lines. People don’t know what YOUR boundaries are because they’re different for all of us.
They’re a way to take care of yourself. When you understand how to set and maintain healthy boundaries, you can avoid the feelings of resentment, disappointment, and anger that build up when limits have been pushed.
Boundaries can take many forms. They can range from being strict to almost nonexistent.
If you have more rigid boundaries, you might:
- keep others at a distance
- seem detached, even with intimate partners
- have few close relationships
- avoid close relationships
If you have more loose or open boundaries, you might:
- get too involved with others’ problems
- find it difficult to say “no” to others’ requests
- overshare personal information with others
- seek to please others for fear of rejection
If you have healthy boundaries, you understand that making your expectations clear helps in two ways:
FIRST: it establishes what behavior you’ll accept from other people, and
SECOND: it establishes what behavior other people can expect from you. If you have healthy boundaries, you might:
- share personal information appropriately (not too much or not too little)
- understand your personal needs and wants and know how to communicate them
- value your own opinions
- accept when others tell you “no”
Many of us have a mix of boundaries depending on the situation. For example, you might have strict boundaries at work and more loose ones at home or with family and friends.
You’ll have different boundaries depending on your culture. For example, some cultures find that sharing personal information is not appropriate at any time, while in other cultures, sharing is even encouraged at all times.
So, how do you set your boundaries in a healthy way? This is something many people struggle with, and it’s not your fault. It’s because we haven’t been taught.
Be calm, firm, and clear about what you need. Have clear and reasonable consequences for crossing a boundary. If someone has a habit of talking over you, for example, you could say, “ Hey, Lydia, I feel upset when you talk over me. If you keep doing that, I can’t continue this conversation. Can you please let me finish my thoughts before you share yours?”
This is the anatomy of setting a healthy boundary. You’re sharing your feeling: I feel upset. You’re telling them why in a fairly neutral way: when you talk over me. And then you’re telling them what will happen if they do it again: If you keep doing that, I can’t continue this conversation. And lastly, you’re making a request: Lydia, can you please let me finish my thoughts before you share yours?
The hardest part of maintaining a boundary is following through on the consequence of them being broken. Other people are not responsible for your boundaries. They may or may not respect them. But YOU need to respect them. If Lydia interrupts you again, you’ll have to follow through on the consequence, in this case, ending the conversation. This is the hardest part because you want to have a constructive conversation with Lydia. But you also can’t control her behaviour. She’s more likely to respect your boundaries next time if you follow through. You could say, “Lydia, I’m feeling too overwhelmed to continue this right now. I’ll see you later”.
Teaching others how to treat us is an art form because we want to balance firmness with a sense of compassion for others. For example, you might say “I want to listen to you vent about your recent breakup, Anna, but I can’t talk while I’m at work.” Or you might tell your family you want to attend their holiday party, but can only do so if uncle Steve agrees to stop bringing up that hot-button political topic. Through boundaries like these, you can be patient and generous toward without compromising your own needs.
One of the biggest challenges I see is that we often diminish ourselves. You might not think you have the strength or self-esteem to set firm-but-compassionate boundaries. You might feel like it takes a lot of energy to justify your needs.
But if you trust yourself then you know your feelings are valid and your boundaries are necessary. Once you can fully and freely trust yourself, you free up your energy and shift out of “survival mode.” This allows you to become a kinder, softer person with the power to protect yourself and offer compassion to others.
If you’re being kind when you’re setting boundaries, then you attract the same in return, and it fills your life with peace, and happiness. This is the abundant life of the 8 keys to happiness – a life rooted in principles, blooming with integrity and respect.
I pray for you to know your own infinite worthiness. This concept of self-respect reminds me of a poem by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky.
“Do you know how beautiful you are?
I think not, my dear.
For as you talk of God,
I see great parades with wildly colorful bands
streaming from your mind and heart,
carrying wonderful and secret messages
to every corner of this world.
I see saints bowing in the mountains
hundreds of miles away
to the wonder of sounds
that break into light
from your most common words.
Speak to me of your mother,
your cousins and your friends.
Tell me of the squirrels and birds you know.
Awaken your legion of nightingales —
let them soar wild and free in the sky
and begin to sing of God.
Let’s all begin to sing to God!
Do you know how beautiful you are?”
This poem always makes me emotional. It’s a beautiful reminder that if we all knew our worth, we would be a lot more relaxed because we would trust in ourselves to take care of our own boundaries, and that frees us to extend a spirit of kindness and compassion toward others.
Let’s move now from finding justice within ourselves, to creating justice in the wider world. This is a topic where many of us feel powerless. We turn on the news and we immediately numb out because it’s overwhelming…but my friend, there is hope.
The fourth Beatitude encourages us to develop compassion—a compassion so deep that every creature becomes your sibling. Like St Francis of Assisi says, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, or as many indigenous cultures say “all our relations”.
When you wish for wellbeing for another person as deeply as you wish for wellbeing for yourself, that is true righteousness. But is it possible? The mystics of the world would say yes. Can you imagine a world where no one goes to sleep until everyone has a roof over their head? Where no one sits down to a meal until every hungry child is fed? We could create a world where no one feels free until everyone is free. Actually, I believe that’s true. I believe we DO live in a world where no one feels free because not everyone is free. That’s why we as a collective are unsettled. I do believe we can feel another’s suffering—even if we don’t know that’s what we’re experiencing, because we ARE all connected. Tapping into the desire for everyone’s wellness is radical compassion. It’s the art of loving kindness.
I don’t say this to you from an idealist’s perspective, but from my perspective as a realistic optimist. I don’t wear rose-colored glasses or shy away from the reality that humans are greedy, immature, and selfish. Instead, I see the imperfect, messy human experience . . . and this gives me the perspective to see that we’re also generous, loving, creative, and capable of learning.
I’d like to share a personal story with you about what this beatitude means to me. Do you remember the Syrian Refugee Crisis of 2016? The news was saturated with heart-rending stories of families, children, risking their lives on flimsy lifeboats to cross the treacherous Mediterranean. They were desperately seeking a safer life. Tragically, many of them didn’t make it. Their hopes for a better future were extinguished beneath the relentless waves.
I first heard these heart-wrenching reports while I was in Reykjavik, Iceland. I was on my way to the airport for a flight home. My taxi driver made a racist comment about the situation in Syria and turned off the radio. The rest of the drive was awkwardly silence. I felt disturbed by the taxi driver’s casual dismissal of the humanitarian crisis. It reminded me of the intolerance and prejudice that contribute to the very conflicts refugees are forced to flee from.
Isn’t it strange? The contrast between our deep capacity for empathy, and the ease with which we can dismiss the suffering of others when it doesn’t directly impinge upon our own lives.
On my flight back to North America, without internet, I had a chance to really reflect. 30,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, my most pressing concerns revolved around the inadequate legroom and the underwhelming meals offered during the flight. In the midst of these minor inconveniences, I was struck by a disturbing realization. If I’d been born 50 years earlier, I would have been a child in Hitler’s Austria, subject to cruel and unfathomable conditions like the Syrian children adrift in their lifeboats.
It’s a sobering thought. By sheer coincidence I was born into a safer world. I didn’t do anything to earn my good fortune, just as those Syrian children hadn’t done anything to deserve their fate.
Over the nine-hour flight, my mind kept coming back to this Beatitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” And when I landed back home, I made the decision to do something about this injustice. I rallied my friends and neighbors, and together, we formed the Victoria Refugee Initiative. Partnering with the United Nations Human Rights Council, we raised the necessary funds to sponsor a Syrian family and bring them to Canada.
Fast forward four months to the day of my taxi ride in Reykjavik, I found myself at the airport. But this time, it wasn’t about my travels. I was there to welcome a family of five to their new home. A young couple and their three children- Miriam, a bright 14-year-old, the energetic Baahir, and the shy-but-adorable five-year-old Ali.
Their journey was not an easy one. For two years, they lived under dreadful conditions, huddled in a damp basement in Jordan. When the UN found them, they were quickly whisked away onto a plane, unaware of their destination. Can you imagine the fear and uncertainty they must have felt?
Their first glimpse of their new life was us, their sponsors, waiting at the arrivals gate with a hand-painted sign bearing a simple “Welcome” – in Arabic, for them to understand. The father of the family approached me, confusion etched on his face. He asked something in Arabic, which I didn’t immediately grasp. But soon, I understood. He was asking: “Why are you helping us?”
My friend, this is how I know people are GOOD—because we drove them to their new home, fully furnished by the overwhelming generosity of strangers.
The months leading up to the family’s arrival, my home became a charitable community centre. In response to my social media posts asking for help, people showed up with kitchenware, food, and handmade quilts, electronics, books, clothing. One little girl handed me her teddy bear in hopes that it would comfort another child. Day after day, strangers arrived at my door, their arms laden with gifts intended for the incoming family.
at struck me most profoundly throughout this entire experience was the palpable yearning for a just world that I witnessed in the people around me.
Their hope, their belief in a better world, was a force that moved them to act. When people believe their actions can genuinely make a difference in another person’s life, it sparks a powerful desire to be of service.
We all collectively yearn for a world that’s fair and just, a world where everyone has a chance to thrive. When we drove the family to their new home, they were left speechless at the generosity of strangers they’d never met, who had thoughtfully furnished their new home, ensuring their comfort as they start this new chapter of their lives.
It is so humbling because I feel that I gained so much from the experience of watching people come together, and put their hopes and dreams for a better world into action. I feel the impact of the beatitude: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
This experience taught me the life-changing importance of compassion in action. The world can often seem overwhelmingly divided and hostile. But you can make a difference. Every opportunity to be kind to another person is an opportunity to make the world a little less harsh.
There’s a beautiful translation of this beatitude from Aramaic to English: “Blessed are those who wait up at night, weakened and dried out inside by the unnatural state of the world, they are the ones who are encircled by a new society.”
So, what dries you up inside? And what will you do about it, my friend? Can you smile at someone today? Can you call up your dad and tell him you love him? Can you buy your girlfriend flowers, or listen to a friend in need? Can you buy an extra Danish at the cafe and give it to the homeless man outside?
To create a better world for everyone, you’ve got to dare to believe it can happen. You have to know that you are part of the solution.
We all have to start somewhere. By sponsoring Ali and his family in Canada, my community and I didn’t end the Syrian refugee crisis or change the minds of people like my cab driver. We didn’t change the world. But for one family, we changed THEIR world… and through acts like that, we can transform the world.
The pandemic brought a sudden halt to our pilgrimages with Dancing Spirit Tours. It was a heavy blow, but we pivoted. I started creating online courses about mysticism and spirituality. But shifting to online teaching was a whole new world for me because I missed the in-person interactions I have with our Dancing Spirit community. I missed the joy of showcasing sacred spaces like cathedrals, springs, and mountains. I felt as if I was slowly losing my sense of purpos sure. If I’m making a positive impact, please give me a sign to reassure me of my path.”
As if in response to my plea, I heard a familiar voice calling my name. “Nina!” I turned around to see Ali, the once shy and timid 5-year-old who had been terrified of airplanes. But now, he was a confident 10-year-old, riding his bike with his friends. A big smile on his face, he called out to me in perfect English—“Nina!” My family is doing well, everyone is happy! Thank YOU!”
I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. The essence of the beatitude had come full circle. After everything we did to help Ali and his family, he was now stepped forward in my time of need, reassuring me that I matter and that my actions have an impact. My prayer had certainly been answered.
Today, I hope you can remind yourself that your actions matter too. Don’t let the pain of the world numb your heart. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Thank you so much for spending time with me today to explore this essential key to true happiness.
As promised, I have a gift for you. It’s a free masterclass called 3 Keys to Unlock Your Connection to The Divine. If you’re curious about mystical spirituality, this transformational masterclass will help you listen to your intuition and embrace its role in shaping your values. You’ll gain new skills to tap into the incredible power that resides within you and create a deeper connection with the universe. Plus, you get a beautiful Workbook filled with journal prompts and practical exercises for being a better human. This masterclass is valued at $97, and it’s yours for free, no strings attached. Go to mysticalspirituality.com and fill out the form that pops up.
Next week we move to Beatitude 5: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
The beauty of mercy lies in its reciprocity. By showing mercy towards others, we open ourselves to receive mercy from others and, more importantly, from ourselves. It’s like Francis of Assisi says, “For it is in giving, that we receive”. We’ll discuss how mercy can transform our lives, and how we can actively cultivate it in our everyday interactions.