Monday, January 6, 2014

Compassion


“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”

Plato

“We only have what we give.”
Isabel Allende



By using my time well today, I got a lot of things done.  By not using my time well, I didn’t get everything done.   I don’t know what the rest of the day will bring so I’m going to sit here and finish this blog so that I don’t have to think about it later.  I’m also making a commitment to get to bed earlier tonight so that I can start waking up at 5:00 a.m. again.  So I don’t want to up late at night writing.  This seems easy, but it is hard for me.
I can’t believe how hard it is for me to do the simplest things sometimes.  Just to sit here and not allow myself to be distracted can be an amazing accomplishment sometimes.  While doing my radio show today I finally understood the concepts of self-love and self-acceptance.  Another word is compassion.  It’s funny how easy it is to have compassion for others, but not for myself.  So today I practiced the following statements:
·      “It must be very hard to be distracted so easily.”
·      “It must be frustrating.”
·      “It must be scary.”
·      “It must make you sad.”

I was talking to myself as if I were talking to a lost child.  That’s appropriate imagery because that’s what I feel like sometimes, a lost and scared child.  I remember once being in a store when my brother and I got separated from my mom.  I was about 7 which made him about 4 years old.  However, even though I was the big brother, I was the one who was crying and scared, while he stayed calm.  Of course we found our mom.  My fears were unrealized as most fears are.  It helps to remember that I don’t have to be a scared child any longer.  I’m an adult who has accomplished many things.   When that child returns, I don’t need to be scared with him.  I can stay calm and comforting and let him know we aren’t lost. 
Making bad choices, not using time well, giving into our worst impulses are all means of the inner child getting attention.  I’m not a psychologist, nor am I excusing bad behavior or poor choices.  However, I think a lot of bad behavior is due to unmet needs.  (At other times I’m just a willful sinner, but that’s a discussion for another time.)   How do I meet those needs?  Again, it comes from accepting that part of me feels scared and lost and practicing compassion with myself.  There’s also another step.
Changing my behavior is also required.  If my inner child, or my actual child, misbehaves, I may provide a needed hug and some reassurance, especially if I know they are acting out of fear or pain.  Love, however, also requires correction because it’s not good for anyone to live with fear or with bad behavior.  Allowing it would not be compassionate.
In one of my first years of teaching, I had a student who, when upset by the other children, would shriek as loudly as possible.   It was unnerving.  After the second or third time I knelt at her desk and whispered, “I know you’re angry and scared and that’s okay to feel those things.  I would feel the same way if kids teased me.  But you’re too old to do that.  You don’t want to do that in middle school, do you?  The next time you are angry, raise your hand and I will stand by you until you feel calm.”
A few days later I could see she was upset.  Her face got red and she was trembling.  But she didn’t shriek.  In a few minutes, she was calm again and she never did it again.  It was one of the proudest moments of my teaching career.  But I was prouder of her.  She changed.
I think we can change.  We can help each other and help ourselves.   We can express our compassion for fears and frustrations, others or ours.  And we can stand next to the sufferer, offering our strength and assistance in order to change the undesirable behavior.   We don’t have to be scared or lost.  I don’t have to be scared or lost.  I can Get Started and Keep Going…and have a little compassion.