5 Steps to Finding Compassion in Difficult Times

There has been a lot of angst in recent months in the United States. Many people are revolving through many different emotions, ranging from extreme anger to extreme joy. There are a few things we need to consider with all of the turmoil going on.

1) It’s important that we use our own inequities to connect to and find compassion for another’s inequities.

First and foremost, everything that is happening - from hate crimes to protests to riots - exist in connection with one another. We cannot see one set of acts as isolated from the others; one cannot condemn one without also condemning the others. They fuel each other. Different groups are acting out, but the source of their actions is the same - it’s the long history of hate and systemic inequities in our country. It doesn’t matter your race, religion, gender, orientation, ability, socioeconomic status or anything else that might be used to divide us.... ninety-nine percent of us are subject to inequity of some sort.

2) Recognize that our personal story isn’t the only story.

It’s very easy to compare our insides with another person’s outsides. Things may look beautiful and shiny on the outside, but you never know the turmoil that’s going on inside. Anyone who’s feeling angry needs to take a moment to step back from their anger to understand that maybe the way that we, as individuals, see the world might be flawed. Everyone has a different experience of the world, and regardless of whether we agree or disagree with their viewpoints, their experiences are valid. (Please note, I’m not saying here that everything we call a “fact” is valid.)

3) It is important that we pay attention to our emotions.

Our emotions are our connectors to our beliefs, values, and expectations.

  • If you’re feeling good, then things are going along according to your beliefs, values, and expectations.
  • If you’re feeling bad, then things aren’t.
  • It’s really that simple.

4) We are all mirrors for each other.

If we accuse someone else of being mean or spiteful or hypocritical, then there is something in us that is mean or spiteful or hypocritical. That may be hard to accept, but nevertheless, it is true.

5) Using #1-4, we can start to build our self-awareness.

  • If you call someone else angry, then take a step back to think about why you are so angry? What belief or value or expectation of yours is being violated? What are you going to do about it?
  • Try to understand the other person's personal story better to help you understand how they've come to their conclusions. Simply ask, "Can you tell me more about that?" Listen to understand, not to reply.
  • Use your inequities to help you find empathy for others.

Finally, understand these four Truths:

  1. The only thing we can control is ourselves.
  2. We can’t change the past - but we can influence the future.
  3. We can’t control how other people act - but we can control our responses to their actions.
  4. We can condemn the circumstances that have brought us to this point, without condemning each other. (And by circumstances, I don’t mean just one election…)

That doesn’t mean we can’t get mad.

Get mad, but do something constructive with it. Stop hurting and blaming each other and calling each other names. If you believe you are a good person, try, as hard as it might be, to see the other side. You don't have to agree with it, but you do have to listen to it without immediately negating or judging.

I’m not coming from a Pollyanna view. Sadly, I do think things will get worse before they get better, because we’ve ripped the bandaid off of an open, gaping wound. But now that we know it’s festering, now that we see the illness that it is, we can begin to treat it and heal.

Because, in the end, we’re all just human. We’re all trying to do what’s best for our families and our friends. We all struggle every day.

Can we please find some compassion?

© 2017, Susan McCuistion


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