Compassion

The older I get, the more I seem to fall into a daily routine.  Get up, get dressed, make coffee, and read…generally meditational reading, which often inspires me when it’s time to blog.  Sometimes, I blog before walking, but most times, my friend and I walk before I settle in for my second mediational period of the day…blogging.  

I have never figured out why I dislike emptying the dishwasher, but I do.  I can spend several days avoiding this really simple task…and then beat myself up because, at times, I go to extreme lengths to avoid emptying the dishwasher.   This morning was no exception.  Having read about compassion in my quiet time, I tried to be compassionate with myself for not having conquered this foible of mine, but I was unsuccessful until I chose to practice gratitude.  I felt a bit silly saying out loud, “Thank you for the dishwasher and the ways it helps me.  Thank you for the clean dishes and dirty dishes.  Thank you that I am still able to care for myself, and perform these daily niceties that make my life easier.”  

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Compassion is one of the Buddhist nine pillars.   According to many writers, our modern world has become very suspicious of compassion, partially because compassion breaks down our competitiveness.  They claimed that while our brains are hardwired to be compassionate, our belief that ours is a dog eat dog world makes many of us afraid to be compassionate.  In fact,  we believe compassion is a luxury few of us can afford.  Yet nothing could be further from the truth.  If we are to be truly successful, we will need to cooperate and interact with others.  Compassion, empathy, and generosity are fundamental to our very survival.  

One of the side effects of the pandemic and Trumpism is fear of the other.   Far too many of us are comparing compassion to weakness, being indebted,  weak.  Yet this is where we come back to the Golden Rule and treat others the way we want to be treated.  We simply can’t have it both ways.  If we want others to make space for us and to be less critical, we need to make space for them and refrain from thoughtless judgments.  This brings to question the whole issue of being compassionate with ourselves. 

An important part of self-care is being compassionate with ourselves.  We don’t come into the world as fully developed individuals.  Life is all about learning the lessons it has to teach us’ lessons about kindness, acceptance, affirmation, humility, courage, etc. If we are to become more accepting and compassionate with ourselves (self-acceptance), we must find the courage to accept the fact that we all are shaped by our human frailties, vulnerability, and limitations,  –  which don’t make us less than but actually more human, more accepting, more giving, more loving….  

During our discussion yesterday at church, one of the participants confessed that she struggles with self-hatred. We all tend to be pretty hard on ourselves.  We created our anxiety and depression by demanding that we keep driving ourselves to have more, do more,  achieve more, and be more powerful.  Even when we are successful and make great achievements, we tend to be hard on ourselves, feeling like failures or frauds.  This is where self-compassion and self-acceptance become an important aspect of self-care.

Ironically, the more we focus on ourselves and our needs, the unhappier we tend to become.  Jesus reminds us that in order to find our life, we have to lose it.  In other words, by investing ourselves in making life better for others and by interacting with others, working,  playing, and doing things with and for others, we discover that’s the best way to get the most out of life.  Being self-protective and reactive almost guarantees unhappiness, but when we are able to open our hearts, we are better able to feel our own pain and the pain of others.  The more we open ourselves to being compassionate and generous, the more alive and resilient we become.

Step 6: Become willing to have God remove all our defects of character.

Step 7:  Humbly ask God to remove all our defects of character so that we might experience the joy and humility that comes with loving and being compassionate.

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