You Can’t Please Everybody



I am writing a shorter post this time, the 3rd and final post about the Harlem Hellfighters will come soon (not quite done yet), but I wanted to share an interesting story that happened earlier this week.

Last year, I wrote about a big argument I had with my neighbor, a wealthy old lady, about her large tree. After that argument, we never spoke to each other, but I still felt bad about the incident. I am still bitter toward her a little, but I also hoped we could make amends. Last week (a year after our last fight), I contacted them again with a letter, because I was worried that the tree is leaning more and more toward our house, which is dangerous. I made the letter polite and diplomatic, hoping it would give us a chance to forget the past, and start a more positive relationship.

The next day, I ran into the neighbors, and they had received the letter. The husband, an elderly man, said that he understood the problem and would work with me to do something about the tree. I was relieved to hear this. However, the wife talked to me in the same mean, condescending way that she did the last time we got into a fight. Clearly, she hadn’t forgotten our last fight. She was bitter about it, and was still insisting she was right and that she knew a lot more about gardening than me. The husband seemed embarrassed and tried to calm her down, but she didn’t listen.

Fortunately, this time I didn’t lose my temper. Instead, I just said, “I understand, I’m happy to work with you on this,” and I apologized again for the problem last time. She didn’t say a word and just gave me a cold stare.

It was kind of shocking, to be honest. Other neighbors (and her gardener) warned me that she has a domineering personality, and I realized they are right. No wonder her gardener calls her the “boss from hell”. When we fought before, I thought maybe I just misunderstood her, but now I realize that she just really is a mean person and I shouldn’t have antagonized her.

So, I learned an important lesson from this: you can’t please everyone.

You can try to make everyone happy, but someone will still hate you. Maybe they have a good reason, maybe not. To be fair, I started the incident last year, so she has reasons to dislike me, but I was hoping that we could make amends and I was wrong.

But I did sincerely apologize to her and her husband again, so I feel that I tried my best to make amends. If she still hates me, I won’t accept it and I won’t worry about it anymore.

Like the Buddha said in the Dhammapada (法句経, or ダンマパダ for Japanese readers):

81. Just as a solid rock is not shaken by the storm, even so the wise are not affected by praise or blame.


222. He who checks rising anger as a charioteer checks a rolling chariot, him I call a true charioteer. Others only hold the reins.

Every one of us probably meets people that are impossible to deal with. It’s a terrible challenge, but it helps to remember the Buddha’s words.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

6 thoughts on “You Can’t Please Everybody”

  1. I sometimes wonder if “love your neighbors” might be a sort of eleventh commandment. It’s not easy!
    Several years ago, my neighbor got a loud little dog. It’s what I would call Yap Yap lapdog.
    After about a year a second dog of the same variety and loudness appeared.
    When my asked my neighbor about it she said she thought her dog had been barking so much because it was lonely and would be better with a friend.
    My quiet home had turned into a cacophony of now stereo barks.
    Not long later, a third dog appeared.
    As you might imagine, this did not make things any quieter. In fact it got worse.
    Nearly any time I went outside into my yard, one of the dogs would start up and the other two would come join in the noise.
    I tried to reason with my neighbor, and she tried something new. She wrapped the dogs in these electrical collars that would stun and shock the dogs every time they bar. This horrified me. I would hear them out there giving out a bark and then a sad little Yelp as the electrical signals would get them.
    I asked her to take the collars off to be kind to the dogs.
    I decided that instead of talking to the neighbor I might start talking to the dogs. Now, I speak to them kindly to the fence time I pass outside and they are a lot calmer. Instead of seeing them as my enemy, I see them as creatures worthy of some love and attention.
    This approach is helped me be a lot calmer too.
    Vincent Paz


    1. Hello viewpacific,

      Interesting story. I haven’t had to deal with yappy dogs but I’d feel bad too if they had an electric collar.

      In the case of the tree though it’s leaning dangerously toward our side where we sleep at night. The neighbor’s gardener suggested to me to ask it be cut down hence the latest letter.

      I’m not too eager to cut down trees but now it’s become a safety issue so my view on the subject has changed a bit.


  2. She is protecting the tree, which has no voice of its own and which is probably just as old as she is….feminine protectors of life can be fierce in a world where what is sacred is cut down without regard constantly. She is the voice of the tree. See Yume by Akira Kurosawa for more understanding about thr voice of nature acting in people, though mostly we do nret heed it. it is true that the wise are not affected by praise or blame. ” each leaves on the trees Quivers in the wind, wondering which will be the next to go.” -samurai proverb


    1. The tree in question is leaning dangerously toward our house and might fall during a windstorm. I’m not too concerned about the voice of tree where the safety of my family is concerned.


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