Weekend Coffee Share | Compassion

Weekend Coffee ShareIf we were having coffee this weekend I’d ask you whether you think our world could use more compassion.

I certainly do. 

I’m amazed by daily reports of abuse and neglect, particularly against the most vulnerable in our societies. 

Compassion is feeling sympathy for someone who is stricken by misfortune with a desire to alleviate the suffering.

Regardless of whether that person is you or someone else, three things are necessary for compassion:

  1. You must recognize the suffering
  2. You must feel moved and want to help
  3. You realize the common humanity in suffering

Recognize suffering

It’s easy to recognize suffering if there are outward signs, but many people hide their anguish for a variety of reasons.

And sometimes we don’t recognize it in ourselves, either. We often confuse sadness and anger when they can be one and the same. 

This was something I discovered after enduring a long-term, verbally abusive marriage. I was extremely angry at the way my spouse treated me, but didn’t realize the feelings of outrage were interlaced with great sadness. 

With some therapy and a lot of helpful books, I was able to develop a better awareness of my own feelings and how they dictated my behavior. I learned about Emotional Intelligence (EI), which is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships carefully with insight and sensitivity.

It’s taken a lot of self-reflection and work, but I score much better today on EI measurements. Also known as emotional quotient (EQ), Justin Bariso, author of EQ Applied, researched for two years what emotional intelligence looks like. He composed a list of 13 signs of high EI. It’s an easy read in case you’re wondering how many you possess.

Feel empathy

This is easy for me when it comes to other people. I’ve always been empathetic and sometimes to my own detriment. This is a hallmark of codependence; putting other people’s needs first because you feel sorry for them. But, what about yourself?

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that showing empathy to ourselves is a sign of good mental health. Instead, I’d listen to my inner critic, which is always quick to point out weaknesses and failures. Compassion was something I saved for others, not realizing how much I needed it, myself.

Once I began to practice self-compassion I found a sense of peace. A calm mind allows for thoughts and feelings to flow freely with a clarity that doesn’t hide or distort the truth.

Self Compassion 2

Realize normal vs undue suffering

This one is a bit more complicated. Yes, everyone suffers at times. But, at the hands of an abuser, you mistakenly think that you deserve the pain; that you’ve done something to warrant the criticism and put-downs. Essentially, I could look at other abused people and feel sorry for them, but not myself. 

It’s a strange concept now that I’ve healed from those years of malicious treatment. If only I had cared for myself back then the way that I do today. I would’ve salvaged so much time and self-esteem. However, I’m grateful that I got out of that toxic environment with a much better appreciation for myself.

I still have moments where I doubt my abilities. But, I recognize this as a human condition that everyone feels at times. 

The difference now is that I’m aware when those feelings strike. I’ve learned to counter the fear and doubt by using positive self-talk.  

I’ve learned to treat myself the way that I’d treat a loved one; with care and compassion. I focus on my strengths and allow for the weaknesses. If I fail at something I encourage myself to try again. 

Because of all that I’ve learned, I’m able to be my own best friend. And that helps me be a better friend to others! 

Revised & reposted from 2017


How People Treat Others

Self compassion is something that I’ve acquired in greater measure over the last ten years.

The need for it came slowly into my awareness during a period of great external life changes: an abrupt end to years of verbal & emotional abuse, separation & divorce from the person I was with for almost 30 years, leaving my home of 19 years, and living on my own for the first time ever. 

Anytime we experience upheaval in our lives it pushes us outside of our comfort zones, but that’s not always a bad thing.

It forces us to take a hard look at who we really are and how we’re living. I saw a quote from an article that summed it up this way:

The other side of pain is not comfort, or health, or well-being. It is truth.~ Jennifer Waite

Living an authentic life isn’t easy. As we grow older we often conform to the rules of society and other people, in order to be accepted. 

We stay in bad marriages “for the children.” We stay in jobs we hate because it’s “safer.” We subscribe to religions we no longer believe in because it’s “what we’ve always done.” We hide our true feelings, put away our dreams, and pretend to be something we’re not. 

Don’t rock the boat, don’t step on toes, don’t question authority and don’t challenge the status quo.

Don’t believe it.

Dr. Suess

It takes a lot of self compassion to step outside the “uncomfortable-comfort zone” and be the person we’re meant to be. Particularly when doing so puts us at odds with our families and inner circles. Oftentimes, it causes great conflict and leads to the breakup of relationships.

But we must always accept who we are if we’re to live honestly. If we don’t, we grow to hate ourselves and eventually the people around us. 

Reports about the shooter in the Orlando tragedy are saying he was a regular patron of the Pulse nightclub, where he so hatefully ended many lives and forever changed so many others. 

Was he “casing the joint” in preparation for his murderous act or was he a closeted homosexual male, struggling with his real identity? If so, he was rejected by his father and the religion he followed. They taught him that gays are only worthy of death, unless they reject that part of themselves. 

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us. ~ Hermann Hesse

As the saying goes, “Judging other people doesn’t define who they are, it defines who you are.” Self acceptance and self compassion are never selfish acts, they are acts of love towards the self. When we accept and offer compassion to others, it is an act of love to the other. As Terri Guillemets said, “A loving heart heals hate.”

I say let’s all do our part and let the healing begin. 


2016 Kindness Challenge – Week 3

Kindness Wk 3

As we moved through week 3 of the Kindness Challenge our goal was to radiate kindness. This is easy to do when things are going smoothly and just the way we want. Smiles and a happy outlook are effortless under ideal conditions.

But, how about when everything goes wrong? You know…those days when we wish we had stayed in bed. It feels like a dark cloud is hanging over our heads and nothing is working out the way we hoped. 

At these times the only thing we radiate is anger or frustration. Some of that is directed outward at other people and circumstances beyond our control. The weather, the unexpected traffic jam, the cranky boss. These types of issues can certainly put a damper on our plans and/or spirits. 

This irritation is made worse if we start to blame ourselves:

“I should’ve been prepared for the change in weather.”

“I could’ve left earlier to allow for a possible traffic delay.”

” I would’ve worked harder on the last project, if only the boss were more appreciative.”

Should’ve, could’ve and would’ve.

If we make it a habit to constantly criticize ourselves when the going gets tough, we sure won’t be tolerant of others. During Week #1 we were asked to focus on self-kindness. Directing kindness internally must be an everyday practice if we want to show it outwardly. 

I used to be quite hard on myself, largely due to the circumstances that I lived under. I blamed myself when things didn’t go right, convinced that I could’ve made a difference if only I were smarter, faster, tougher, etc. Certainly, there were times when I dropped the ball (like most human beings), but I was taking responsibility for things that were out of my control. Eventually, I left a bad situation and began to educate myself about the importance of self-compassion.

As I began to treat myself with love and patience, I was able to accept my humanity. Being human means occasionally making mistakes and I learned to be okay with that. I also noticed that I was more tolerant of others. Things that used to upset me no longer had the negative effects that they once had.

This past week one of my children made a snarky comment and I was able to let it roll right off. My response was a smile and a good-natured, “Oh, no that’s not what I meant…” and I explained in further detail my point. Ten minutes later I got an apology.

It’s so empowering to be more in control of my own emotions. How great if feels when someone is mean-spirited and I’m able to say to myself, “Something else is bothering them” or “They’re limited emotionally when it comes to this subject.”

Kindness_ContagiousOftentimes, answering anger with understanding can diffuse a tense situation. It’s important to remember that anger is a mask for sadness. 

We must let go of the need to be perfect. Recognizing our own humanity and giving ourselves an occasional pass when we make a mistake or use poor judgement allows us to do the same for those around us. Our kind energy is contagious and that’s definitely something worth “catching.”