When you put yourself out there to practice certain principles, the first thing that occurs is that you get several opportunities to practice these principles. It’s a given. While I was learning to practice compassion for myself a few years ago, I kept making mistakes that I probably wouldn’t have made prior to deciding that I wanted to offer myself compassion. Embarrassment and self-disgust came up for me several times until I understood that I was human and that I should learn to give myself a break rather than beat myself up. Over the years, I have learned to move through my mistakes a lot less clumsily without the self-hatred, but in the arrangement of mine to give myself compassion, I’ve had to deal with people who judge me harshly. People judge. It’s what we naturally do. Some people will follow another person and bite at their heels all the way to justice being served, while others hold grudges for years. Some people gossip until they exhaust their own soul, and others are hateful and awful toward the person that “did them wrong.” Life is not that black and white. There is always a backstory to every situation. I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and makes the decision to screw someone over. Most of the time people neglect themselves before neglecting another human being. I think the key here is that when someone does you wrong, or won’t listen to your side of the story, you’ve got to set yourself free by simply accepting that more than anything, that other person is human. Take it as an opportunity to practice love and compassion rather than becoming self-righteous.
It’s really interesting to me now to turn this all around and to give other people the same compassion as I give myself. With my children (whom I practice on the most), offering immediate forgiveness and compassion comes pretty naturally, because they are an extension of me, but what about the people in the real world who seem to be separate from me? How do I manage to offer my compassion to total assholes? There are so many of those riding in the middle of the street on their bikes without looking back while I’m in a CAR trying to get to work… (Satire here – I don’t truly think they are assholes). There are grumpy people, petty people, fussy people, people in a hurry, and people who I don’t have the opportunity to offer compassion toward because we pass each other through life so swiftly. I find myself impatient while I’m driving. I always tell my children, “I am a very spiritual person, but none of that applies in the car.” While on our vacation last week, we experienced two bad accidents coming home and two hours of bumper to bumper traffic through San Francisco. As I sat there tired and ready to relax in the comfort of my home, I decided to not get uptight about the whole thing. It was a good opportunity to practice patience and to just be in the moment. I did complain about a few things, like how bad the roads are in California when there are millions of taxpayers here, but overall, I kept my cool for once. Children observe everything, and if I’m not being cool, calm and collected in the car, that’s what they are going to bring up when I try to act like I’m a saint overall.
Regarding judgment of others – lately I’ve made several connections with so many new people and all of them are so dynamic in their own way. Every person I meet has experienced something in life that I haven’t experienced. I used to go into conversations excited to talk about myself, but now I’m finding myself extremely interested in what other people have to say. I love people. I love experiencing energy when I walk into a room full of people who are all there for the same purpose. I’m noticing the more I am accepting of people, the more they are accepting of me. It is true. The world reflects whatever you put out. I used to think of myself as a lone soldier who people didn’t “get.” Instead of thinking this way, I’m putting myself out there to see what I can learn from others, and everything has turned around for me. It feels like there is a lot of love out there for me. I’m not talking romantic love – I’m speaking about acceptance. Now that I am embracing the world and the people in it, the world and the people in it are embracing me.
No one is perfect and it is so easy to judge. What isn’t easy, is to offer love and compassion to everyone you encounter. This is a challenge. I heard it in a movie this week, “You’ve got to see through all the obvious, down into a person’s heart,” bottom line. People put up walls, and act like jerks, but underneath most human beings is a vulnerable soul. We have all been hurt and done wrong and been abused in some way, shape or form. Many of us are grieving for someone we’ve lost. Each one of us has experienced a bad day. I was treated poorly this week by a cashier, but I looked beyond that and saw that there was some frustration behind it. Obviously that guy was having a rough day. We’ve all had those. Instead of making his day worse by telling his boss, or by complaining directly to him, I offered a broad smile and told him I really appreciated him bringing the box of paper to my car. Why waste my energy getting angry when it takes a lot less time to be kind? I could have dwelled on that all day, but instead, I let it go. Let it go. There’s a concept.
Instead of noticing what a person is lacking, I’ve been practicing a new way of thinking. What is their gift in life and what do they know that I don’t know? Probably A LOT. We attract everything that comes our way, so instead of rejecting people by judging them, I’ve decided to be open to them. It’s all part of the flow that I so often talk about. Don’t stop the flow of your life. People come into our experiences in all shapes, forms, sizes and with different belief systems. What are you going to be for them? I no longer put a guard up. I simply open myself up to whatever experience comes my way with each person I encounter. I don’t have to pretend to like them. I simply have to accept who they are. When you accept people for who they are, they automatically open themselves up to you. It’s incredible. People notice when they are accepted. They are drawn to acceptance. I’ve noticed since I’ve been doing this that people are very drawn to me. And I’m not getting a bunch of riff-raff – I’m getting to experience people with their guards down too. People want to be loved. They want friendship. They want acceptance because the world offers a lot of judgment as it is. Everyone has something to teach us about ourselves and about how to be.
Let it go. Let people make mistakes. Allow them to be angry, to be short with you, to be in whatever state of mind they are in at the moment. It takes much less energy to smile than it does to argue. I’m still learning this (especially in the car), but it is liberating. Life is too short to remain angry. Life is too precious to keep a guard up. Life is too generous to be self-righteous and judgmental. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten more second chances than I deserved, so I’ve decided to offer that same generousness to others. If you want acceptance, you’ve got to learn to give it first. That’s the golden rule we learned about in Sunday school. It’s karma. It’s not a bitch. It’s kind of beautiful actually.