Why I Can't Help But Feel Compassion
This morning, for some reason, I was thinking about a community of people with whom I never seemed to fit in, and with whom I'm no longer involved. There were several people in this community who had taken a disliking to me for various reasons, and it was extraordinarily difficult for me to accept that. I can't stand it when people don't like me, especially when they don't bother to try and mend the wounds, or even communicate about why they have a problem with me. I hate not knowing why. Even now, and maybe especially now, that I'm no longer involved with them, I still find myself thinking back and wondering: what did I do wrong? I think about whether they're glad I'm gone, and about whether they still gossip about me in the kitchen the way they used to do when I was around, whether they roll their eyes when my name comes up. Thinking about this curdles my blood, makes me tense, makes me angry and sad.
At the same time, I'm conscious of my own judgments about certain people in this community. The lady who thinks I jammed a screw into her tire is obviously a total nutjob. The ones who gossiped about me and were talking about me in other groups are clearly disturbed. It was so obvious that she was jealous of my relationship with X.
This line of thought always brings me, eventually, to thinking about all the mistakes I made in that time of my life, all the stumbles. As I usually do when I find myself erupting in judgment of others, I came back to: Well, I've done that, too. I've made accusations, gossiped, been jealous.
So after awhile of this merry-go-round of dysfunction, I came back to one thought: Ugh. We're all messed up.
I wonder sometimes if people who aren't intimately familiar with their own difficult natures can actually feel true compassion for others. Compassion is the act of forgiving someone for not being perfect, but we can only feel compassion from a place of knowing that we, ourselves, are not perfect. We understand our own struggles with mood, with anger, with inattention, with procrastination, with jealousy, and we look at others who display their struggles, and we say "Oh, I know how that feels." That's compassion. If we believed that we had never made a mistake or acted in a less-than-perfect way, would we still be able to feel compassion?
I can't help but feel compassion because I'm so familiar with my own struggles that judging someone else for theirs, just seems unjust. Oh, I'll be judgmental just as much as the next person, but usually, eventually, I catch myself with the thought: "Oh, I've done that." When I can drop my own story about it, I can feel the heat of anger, jealousy, unkindness, hatred, loneliness, pain, despair, and my soul says "Yes. I've been there."
The challenge for me is to be compassionate towards myself. I can be compassionate towards the gossipers, the jealous ones, and the delusional ones, even if their treatment of me still hurts. It's forgiving myself for being the target of their gossip or misguided accusations that's hard. And the funny thing is that I get judgmental about others who don't exhibit compassion and forgiveness towards me ("Right, like you've never had a bad day or acted in a way you regret!" I'd like to say to them), but when I don't exhibit compassion towards myself, that's perfectly fine. It's that same old cliche: we're our own worst critics. Although I've never accused myself of jamming a screw through my tire.