And other things you wish you could say
Plus, why pity is different than compassion
Everyone is operating at their highest capacity at every moment. I like to think this.
When someone gives me a dirty look on the narrow escalator at DSW because they couldn’t get around me. When someone is walking directly toward in a quasi-stagger because he’s staring down at his iPhone. When someone is rude for no apparent reason in line at Whole Foods, because yes, the line at Whole Foods is an intense experience! I like to remind myself that this is that person’s best attempt at life in that moment.
But, man, sometimes a best attempt is pretty shabby, right?
Usually we can easily forgive things like lolly-gagging in line or staggering on the sidewalk. It’s the bigger stuff, the oversights, the crappy attitude, the negativity, the general sourness, the intentional infractions that hit a little harder.
However, if we can remember that this is that person’s best…this is an easy cue for compassion:
If this is your best, then things must be really rough for you. You must be suffering. And I can open my heart to you.
This kind of compassion, when people are exhibiting definitive signs of d-baggy-ness, is not a natural first reaction. I’ll be the first to cop to bouts of pedestrian rage, eye rolls and audible sighs. I know for myself, there’s usually a reason. I’m frustrated because of something going on in my life that has nothing to do with the person who is letting her dog leash span the entire sidewalk.
Here are a two reasons why it’s worth the effort to let it slide, and choose to be compassionate.
Engaging puts a pin in the balloon that holds all your positive energy: Someone picks a fight with you on line at Whole Foods and you yell back, you’re right there on the same emotionally drained level as they are. Why would you want to go there? There’s the fray. Stay above it.
Karma, b*tches: You’d want the benefit of the doubt if you were having a bad day and you accidentally, or not, body-checked someone on the escalator. You’re not really a bad person. And likely neither is the person to whom you’re giving the evil eye right now.
Now, how about the fine line between compassion and pity? Pity puts you “above” someone else. Compassion is another way of saying, “I see you, and all you’re going through.”
When was a time in your life when someone showed you unexpected compassion? When was the last time you were called upon to rise above the anger and be compassionate? What did you do?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.