Day 6: COMPASSION (The July “I Believe…” Challenge)

by Dani Fake Webb on July 6, 2010

(If you’re new to this challenge, take a look at the intro video explaining the concept.
You can get more details on how to participate.
And click here for the daily categories.)

Today’s Category: Compassion

It seems that when most people hear the word “compassion,” they tend to first think of it as an external energy, such as having compassion on other people, animals, etc.

However, I believe that for true compassion to be lavished externally, it must first be a gift that we give to ourselves.

Compassion Toward Self

self-love31

In my coaching practice, one of the biggest barriers to growth that my clients face is a lack of self-compassion. For many clients, it seems much easier to berate, judge and criticize themselves than it is to treat themselves in a kind, compassionate manner. I cannot count the number of times I have had a client tell me their self-berating thoughts, and I have said, “Would you ever talk to or treat a child that way? Or even another adult?” The answer is always a resounding “No! Never!”

So why is it OK to treat ourselves with less than total compassion?

As I re-read what I just wrote, I am laughing at myself (compassionately) and my references to my clients. As if I’ve never done the same thing…

Quite the contrary, my lack of self-compassion is alive and well. When my husband and I were first married, I became keenly aware of how mean to myself I was. When he and I would get into a conflict, I had an annoying tendency to totally retreat and refuse to engage (we have ever-so-affectionately named this part of me my “F. U.” self. I’ll let you figure out the acronym.)

Screaming_smallI would withdraw into a place of seething self-rage, with an inner dialogue that sounded something like, “What is wrong with you, Dani!? Why can’t you just stay present? Is it really that hard? See, you are just not cut out for this. Who did you think you were, thinking YOU could actually be married?! Ha!”

Ouch.

Today I like to believe that marriage has actually helped me become more aware of these condemning voices. And it is in this awareness that I can now practice compassion on the little girl who retreats. See, it is not me who retreats. It is a part of me. It is a part that takes over the moment and is super-scared. She thinks she is actually protecting me. She is good (even if she makes my life hard sometimes).

(If this idea of our “parts” is intriguing to you, I invite you to be a “part” (ha ha) of the call I am hosting on Wednesday, July 7. Go here to learn more or to sign up to receive the recording.)

Though I am far, far from perfect at it, I have learned to try to be more compassionate toward this little girl, and toward all the parts of me whose voices fill my head throughout the day.

If we give ourselves the gift of self-compassion, I believe we allow the very best parts of ourselves to come forward and give compassion to others.

Compassion Toward Others

I believe that self-criticism and hatred come from a place of unfelt emotion. And this unfelt emotion creates energy that leads to the self-deprecating voices as described above. However, this same energy can turn outward as well.

Road rage. People cutting in line. Loud people. People with opinions that differ from ours. All of these are examples of things that can cause us to judge and criticize the Other. But I wonder…

soldier_compassionWhat if we could replace judgment and criticism with compassion? Maybe you’ve heard the quote, “Before you judge, be aware that every person carries their own trauma, their own pain.” –Dani Fake Webb (ha ha. With my current lack of Internet connection I can’t find the actual quote, so that is my paraphrase!)

Bottom line is this: Every person we criticize or judge carries pain, has a story. And I am willing to bet that if we heard that story, our perceptions would shift dramatically from judgment to compassion.

I am reminded of the account of a woman riding the subway:

There was a man and his four young children riding on a subway train. The children were running around the subway car, totally out of control. A fellow passenger found herself more and more irritated by the scene that his children were creating. She felt angry, and judged this man for being a poor father. After all, who lets their kids run wild in public! As her irritation mounted, she addressed the father. In an stern voice she said, “Sir, can you please take control of your children?!” He looked at her with sad eyes and said, “I am sorry, Ma’am. I am not sure what to do. You see, we just came from the hospital. My four young children have just learned that their mother has died.”

**Gulp**

Instant change of perspective. I am willing to bet that this woman now had more compassion, more tolerance.

This is not to say that all behavior should be excused. Not at all. We must still have boundaries and be at choice in all of our relationships and circumstances. But, it is to say that if we added more compassion into our lives, our own experience of life could be so much richer.

Try_ThisTry this: When you feel judgment or criticism toward someone, let that feeling be a trigger to remind you to move intentionally toward compassion. You don’t have to stop your critique – but just “try on” the compassionate perspective, and see what happens. If you don’t like it, you can always put that critical hat right back on!

Those are my thoughts on compassion. What about you? What do you believe about compassion?

Until next time, may you love (and have compassion on) your life today.

Dani-Signature

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Kirk Webb July 6, 2010 at 7:03 pm

I believe that compassion is at the center of the maturing human experience. A purposefully mindful focus on compassion recreates the human heart on a moment by moment basis. Our self-serving and manipulative ways are replaced by a heart of love. Compassion is the journey of the maturing self.

Ellen Stoune July 7, 2010 at 2:46 am

Self-compassion? Well that concept never even occurred to me. Guess that ought to tell you how far along I am in that area! But seriously, that is a concept that I really have to examine because Dani, your statement, “…I believe that for true compassion to be lavished externally, it must first be a gift that we give to ourselves,” hit me between the eyes. Thank you for that.
Now I would like to think I am a very compassionate person and in many ways, I am. I believe that without compassion, we humans simply cannot co-exist effectively. I believe we have to be willing to see others without the tainted veil of judgment if we are to thrive and grow. I know I certainly haven’t hit the ball out of the park in many areas of my life and without compassion (self and otherwise), how will I ever heal and learn? I believe that compassion does not always mean condonement (not a word recognized by the English language but I need it so there it is).
However, there are some areas where I completely lack compassion. Drunk drivers will suffer from a lack of compassion from me. Drug addicts don’t elicit a compassionate response from me either. They had a choice before the needle hit their vein. Even though I know that people like this must be suffering from really strong emotional pain to be willing to put themselves in such situations, I just can’t quite get there. And I know why and therefore, am revealing a golden nugget of insight into an area that I want to explore much further – weakness. I have a really hard time feeling compassion for people who show weakness. When this trait shows up in some of my choices, boy… am I ever brutal to myself.

Jennifer July 7, 2010 at 5:13 am

Compassion starts within. The more compassion we have for ourselves, the more it permeates out to others.

Compassion is hard when judgment and attachment are present. However, compassion may lead people to become deeply attached to an issue or person to the point of inspired action. However, then it is not compassion that is the driving force. It is now a purpose or a mission.

I used to be much more religious. Now I am less religious but much more compassionate (and spiritual). I am still figuring this one out.

Rick Hamrick July 7, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Dani, this concept, particularly the compassion-for-self aspect of it, is huge. There is so much which manifests in our lives directly from our reaction to the judgmental inner voice.

I love your idea of using rising irritation, frustration, or judgment-in-the-making as a signal to trigger a return to the compassionate, open heart. It is astonishing how quickly a situation can be turned around if one flows nothing but Love into it. Your story is a great illustration, as the father could easily have blown up, but he sent only Love along with his expression of unfathomable sadness.

It’s good to remember, as well, that there is nothing wrong with being angry at ourselves. The reconciliation of that anger, how we come back to Love, is the key. Our actions will fall short of our best intentions, and we can learn to live with that and love who we are.

Laura Neff - Life Leadership Coach July 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Hey Chica,

Well done. And interestingly, every time I’ve ever done “parts” work with my therapist, I *always* end up feeling compassion for whatever part we’re dealing with, be it a young, scared part that’s trying to cope, or a protector part that doesn’t know any other way…it’s amazing what happens when I (we) come from my deepest, truest, conscious self. Compassion becomes very easy, but that doesn’t mean that accessing and having compassion is always easy for me.

As a Unitarian Universalist, one of the most challenging aspects is in our very first principle: to recognize and honor the “inherent dignity and worth of every person.” That includes drunk drivers. That includes drug addicts. That includes the jerk who cut me off in traffic. And that includes me, with all my faults and divots. It’s a principle that I love, that informs my work every day, and that challenges me like crazy over and over again.

Thanks for yet another excellent topic. OH! And here’s my post! http://is.gd/dkwme

xoxo,
L.

Dani Fake Webb July 12, 2010 at 9:57 pm

What fabulous honestly Ellen. I am willing to venture out and say that your struggle with compassion on people who show weakness (including the drunk driver and the addict) may be rooted in your self-brutality. May your continuing journey bring you loads of self-compassion… :)

Dani Fake Webb July 12, 2010 at 9:58 pm

I so relate to this Jennifer! Especially your last statement. “Love Your Neighbor.” It starts with compassion.

Dani Fake Webb July 12, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Well said Rick. It is the reconciliation of that anger that is key. Well put, my friend!

Dani Fake Webb July 12, 2010 at 10:19 pm

@ Laura – I think recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of each person is indeed the foundation for compassion. Especially self-compassion!
Thanks for your words!!

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