Compassion is hard.
To feel a sincere sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others? That’s hard. To feel that along with a strong desire to ease the suffering? Harder still.
It is far easier to push those feelings way down inside of us and it is much easier to pretend we don’t care. It’s so much safer to bury that concern and decide not to act and I’ll tell you why that’s true.
Because compassion hurts. Compassion requires vulnerability. We cling to the hope that our offering will be enough, our intentions understood, our desire to help or heal accepted.
But sometimes the hatchet falls.
Compassion hurts because sometimes when we make ourselves vulnerable we may end up wounded. Human beings can be so unkind. We all lack compassion. If we didn’t, none of us would be here today, pouring out our hearts, hoping to touch just one life, to affect just one change.
Human beings lack compassion. We lack compassion because we are imperfect beings. We fail and we fall.
Be honest. Right here, right now, be honest. Admit that at some point in your life, for some reason, in some large or small way, you have lacked compassion for another human being. It doesn’t matter if it was intentional or not. It doesn’t matter if you were right or if you were wrong. Just answer the question.
Have you ever been unkind? Have you ever failed to show compassion?
It’s difficult to come clean about our flaws, isn’t it? To lay them bare for the world to see? It’s so much easier to pull the hood closer and the scarf tighter. Easier to say “no, I’m good,” and keep walking, head down against the cold hard wind of truth.
But the truth about the wind is that it always blows. No matter how gentle or destructive, no matter how warm or cold, the wind blows always and forever and touches each of us and all of us. Like the wind, truth is always there.
Here’s my truth:
I have been unkind and I have lacked compassion at times in my life. I have allowed pride and fear and misconception to get in the way of showing compassion for another person. I have always said that I do not live my life with regrets. I have moments in my life of which I am not proud. But I believe that every moment of our lives brings us to the place and the person we are today. Every moment – the good and the bad, the ones in which we stumble and the ones in which we shine.
Have people in your life been unkind to you? Have they failed to show compassion toward you? It has happened to me and I can tell you with a fair degree of certainty that it is likely for the same reasons I did. Pride. Fear. Misconception. People will tell you that they are kind and compassionate people. Perhaps they will even appear to be so…but with everyone except those closest to them. Sometimes you will do that yourself.
Relationships are complicated.
How simple to allow ourselves the delusion that we will always show kindness and compassion to those we love. It just isn’t so. But remember – human beings are imperfect. We fail and we fall.
I would like to tell you that in all cases I have accepted my faults. I would like to tell you that I have come to terms with those moments in my life where I did not shine, did not love. But that would be untrue. I have spent many moments criticizing myself, certain that I was somehow at fault for another person’s stumble. I have spent at least as many moments convinced that my own stumbles were somehow indicative of a lack of good moral character.
If I were better…then maybe…
What if the truth is that we lack compassion for ourselves? What if that renders us incapable of believing that we are worthy of kindness and compassion? We must be kind to ourselves. We must acknowledge that people change. We all grow and learn from experience. And we must include ourselves in that acknowledgement.
There is room in the world for more compassion than we practice. There are so many reasons and causes that inspire us to do better. But we must first better ourselves. Before we show compassion for the world around us, we must first show compassion for ourselves.
Compassion is hard. Self-compassion is harder.
But it’s the first step.
Forgive yourself. Love yourself.
Then go out and do the rest…
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