Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”― Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
I’ve been thinking a lot about compassion. It is never defined by spiritual leaders – it is encompassed in their teachings as a way of living. It is a mindset. Since compassion cannot live with judgment, I love father Greg Boyles’ admonition “to stand in awe at what folks have to carry, rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.”*
I am chastised!
I know man who has deserved every bit of compassion I could have mustered. But much of the time throughout the years he has gotten more judgment from me than compassion. Oh, I always wish him happiness. I always wish him a relief from suffering. And sometimes my higher self prevails. But I have often judged him for not acting the way I believe I MIGHT have if I were in the same position. Although I have never been in chronic pain, it hasn’t stopped me from believing that I have had answers. Although I have never suffered from depression I have many times urged him to look at the bright side.
I am looking now through the clear vision of compassion as unconditional love. I think I would do well to change my goals in meditations from mindfulness to loving kindness. I have studied Tonglen as taught by Pema Chodron but never in regard to the pain of my close friends and family as much as the great sorrow in the world.
I am like a new convert, I suppose, my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed response will be to examine my mode of thinking the way I view people – once again. My life is a continual re-evaluation. It’s so easy to slide into the habits that are long-standing and to keep the attitudes that are entrenched.
Holding compassion in the long term it is not easy for me. Compassion takes a high degree of tolerance and seeing things from points of view other than my own. I hate to say that it is not my strong suit because it means I am not the person I want to be. But I have often laughingly said “everyone’s entitled to my opinion”. And as an opinionated I am often too busy trying to figure out a solution that fits within my paradigm.
I am clearly a work in progress. An inch forward feels like movement to me. But it might take more than an ounce of compassion to cover the judgment that regularly creeps in regarding myself and others.
Reminds me of what my father said in his later days, “Lord help us all.”