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

#WeekendCoffeeShare: Dealing with Struggle

Happy Saturday!

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that a fellow blogger inspired me to find my #WeekendCoffeeShare image and create a post about some personal struggles.

We all have them and it’s helpful to talk with a trusted friend. Or, for our purposes here, to write it out (WIO), which is kind’ve the same thing!

Struggles come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They impact our lives in assorted ways. Sometimes it’s a small annoyance, but other times it can be life-altering.

Fortunately, my life is calm right now. My struggles are minor. But, it wasn’t always that way.

I spent two decades in a toxic marriage. My spouse was a verbally and emotionally abusive alcoholic. Addiction is progressive and grows worse over time. Life became a daily struggle to survive. I eventually found the courage to divorce him and move on.

It took an additional eight years to develop true self-esteem and confidence.

During that time I went back to school and earned the degree I’d always wanted. I left a dead end job and spread my wings in other areas, as well.

Eventually, the realization dawned on me: the only chains we wear in life are those we self-impose or allow others to place on us.

It was a hard lesson that required a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. But, the freedom and sense of self that I gained in the process were well worth the fight.

My struggles today are more benign. I want to tackle some projects that I’ve been putting off. It’s time to commit to eating healthy and exercising more regularly. Writing must be a priority again. All the usual stuff going into the new year.

However, in creating my To-Do list for 2020 I’m going to remind myself of all that I achieved in the past year: I reestablished a connection with an old friend, strengthened the bonds with those closest to me, took my first trip to Europe, and finished renovations in two bedrooms. I also welcomed my first grandchild!

As we attempt to work through our struggles, it’s important to celebrate our accomplishments. We must raise our level of self-awareness and live more intentionally. Reminding ourselves of our inherent value should be a daily meditation.

Looking ahead is important, but so is looking back. As human beings, our histories contain both failures and victories. Having the courage to acknowledge weakness is crucial for growth. And learning the lessons offered by of those experiences are solid building blocks for a brighter future!

Weekend Coffee Share: Is There Life After Hate?

Weekend Coffee ShareIf we were having coffee I’d want to discuss how the world got another big dose of hate this past week with Charlottesville on August 11/12 and again in Barcelona on August 17. 

Less than a week apart, these horrific events always leave me feeling sick and wondering if we ever truly recover. “We” being the vast majority of the human race who reject hatred and those who espouse it.

Sure, we’ll mourn the dead, pray for the injured, and clean up the debris. We’ll leave flowers, flags, and stuffed animals at the site of the massacre.

We’ll stand in solidarity with our candles to promote love and peace. And these are all necessary gestures to begin the healing process and restore a sense of normalcy back into our world.

But, can we really recover or feel hopeful knowing that it’s just a matter of time until the next terror attack?

I’m not sure, but Joan Baez said that “action is the antidote to despair.” And I agree.

Doing something always feels better than doing nothing.  The sense of helplessness is overwhelming and often prevents us from taking any action. 

So, what is that something?

Well, one way is to share news and articles that can educate and enlighten us regarding the problems we face. There’s a lot of (dare I say it) fake news out there.

We have to be careful regarding who our sources are. Of course, there are right and left-leaning outlets, but I’m talking about those who have established reputations versus those who don’t.

Other options for anyone wanting to lessen their feelings of despair come from the Southern Poverty Law Center who recently posted 10 ways to fight hate.

Regardless of what avenues we choose, we must do them in the spirit of compassion and understanding. I know that’s a very tall order and one I grapple with all the time. My first reaction, when faced with opposing opinions and ideologies, is pretty negative. 

Obviously, many people struggle with these kinds of emotions. However, I don’t believe we can win the war on hate with hate. 

The following article and information explain further.

Former White Nationalist

Credit: Teresa Crawford/AP

It’s the story of Christian Picciolini, a former skinhead who renounced his relationship with the neo-Nazi movement in 1996.

He co-founded Life After Hatewhose mission statement says that they’re dedicated to inspiring individuals to a place of compassion and forgiveness, for themselves and for all people.

As a “lost and lonely” teenager, Christian was recruited by a white nationalist organization in the late 80s. He became the leader of a Chicago area group by age 16. 

The birth of his first child when he turned 19 was the catalyst for breaking ties with the white supremacists, which occurred several years later.

He understands how young people fall prey to these types of hate-mongers.

Christian knows from his own experience that the youngsters are searching for three fundamental human needs: identity, community, and a sense of purpose. Those who don’t find this are the ones targeted by the hate groups. 

You can walk into any high school and find those marginalized kids who’ve been bullied and/or dismissed by the majority.

They’re not accepted into the various cliques. They’re not good-looking enough, or athletically inclined, or smart enough.

They wear the wrong clothes and live in the wrong neighborhood. They may speak differently or be the wrong color.  

That sense of rejection spawns feelings of worthlessness that eventually grow into anger. Left unchecked the anger swells into full-blown hate. Some will turn to drugs and alcohol. Others to crime.

Most will suffer in silence, turning their hate inward. But, some will lash out at others and seek retribution through any channel or group that offers them a feeling of security.

In the short video below, Christian tells the story of how, with the right approach and attitude, there can be life after hate. That approach includes compassion and communication with those we don’t understand.

There’s simply no room for hate when our platform is about acceptance and equal rights.