The concept outlined in the title above comes from a beautiful soul, Thich Nhat Hanh and you can read the details in a wonderful little book of his titled “be free where you are.” I was shopping for books last weekend to study for a Masters program I’m working on and this little book caught my eye. The title caught my eye because for my own reasons I was considering some of my own thoughts about being trapped and had begun to realize that my prison was merely a matter of untamed thoughts and not really a reality. The above title comes from a chapter in Thich Nhat Hanh's book.
This particular chapter resonated so much with me that I had to write about it. So, what does this beautiful soul mean when he says, “Understanding Makes Compassion Possible?” As we experience each other through our daily interactions, we will meet all kinds of people. We’ll meet those who are loving, giving, forgiving and compassionate. We’ll also meet those who are hateful, selfish, vengeful and unfeeling. It is what it is – that’s just life on Earth. Through understanding that those before you (who may be exhibiting the negative attributes I’ve written about above) are suffering too in some way just like you, you begin to open the door to compassion. Once you let compassion in by throwing that door open ever wider, you become free in so many ways.
It is hard to be compassionate when suffering souls are doing everything they can to seemingly wreck your day. However, as surely as I’m sitting here breathing and typing out my thoughts, you can learn how to open that door and free yourself from the prison of giving your power away through vengeance, revenge, vindictive or equally offensive behavior in reaction to a situation you experience with a soul who is in pain. I’ve written this before and so have many others: Hurt people hurt people. That is just the way of things here on Earth. If you arm yourself through understanding and its resulting compassion, you can free yourself from much needless and energy wasting drama.
But here is the thing, everyone has their role here to play, scenes to act out and lessons to learn. There is no right way or wrong way to handle people, situations or interactions with one exception. If you have a specific expectation, what you do in your actions will result in a reaction or consequence. Through understanding you might learn that if you push the buttons of grumpy or wounded people, they may take a swing at you. Or, through even greater understanding you might learn than wounded people might take a swing at you just because you are standing there whether or not you push their buttons.
Some people become angry and upset because they suffer. Adding insult to injury does not solve a problematic interaction. Understanding, compassion and love for self and others can solve a problem just maybe not exactly the way you expect. It’s possible that you may find you have to hold compassion and understanding for yourself and move yourself away from people who trigger your reactions until you can learn not to react. Again, there is no right or wrong way to handle an interaction but there are consequences for actions and when suffering is involved, adding more suffering doesn’t help. Should wounded people seek assistance to ease their suffering? Sure. But, what if they do not know how? What if they do not know that they are suffering? What if they are so lost in their suffering they don’t even know where to begin? Will you adding to their suffering make you or them better? Ask yourselves these questions. Ask yourself if a situation you face needs understanding, compassion, love, space or thoughtful discussion.
I find that I sometimes must hold compassion from a distance with those who trigger me. I do reserve the right to set boundaries but would make every attempt to do so kindly, lovingly and diplomatically no matter what someone else has done. Sometimes I may be stressed or irritable and react instead. I don’t like how I feel when I react in such situations and start to feel the prison doors of emotion begin to shut me in again. I do like how I feel when I make an effort to understand what is really happening, when I can move beyond my assumptions and perceptions and reach for the truth and set an intent for compassion. I wish to do no harm in this world and I’m sure there is no shortage of people who might say I was evil incarnate. I can’t worry about what other people think. I can only do my level best to seek understanding, try my best to be kind and do whatever I can to find compassion in my dealings. When I can find a way to do this, I free myself from the prison that reactive emotions of anger, disappointment and pain create. It’s hard not to let the ego step in and fight back but sometimes you have to stop and think that it may very well be that the grown up before you is actually a very wounded child on the inside. Would you take a swing at a wounded child? I wouldn’t and I wouldn’t because I couldn’t live with myself if I did. I would put myself back into an emotional prison I truly wish to be free from. I have found that the understanding and compassion in the book above has always set me free. When I forget, I change course and right my actions and strive to stay compassionate. I am not perfect but realize I am perfect in my imperfection and so is everyone else I interact with. As I suffer, so too have they suffered. I do not wish to participate in creating suffering. I truly wish to leave everything and everyone in better shape when we part ways than before we met. Does it always work out that way from one side or the other? No. Not always. But the intent is always there regardless.
I’ve always been so very impressed with the loving words of Thich Nhat Hanh. I can tell you that on more than one occasion, his words saved my life from an emotional perspective. I just wanted to share this piece of his wonderful wisdom with you in my own way. Please understand something of vital importance though. It is not understanding, loving or compassionate to self to become a self-sacrifice to those who engage in violent or emotionally abusive actions. The consequence of those kinds of actions may need to be you setting a boundary that results in demonstrating true love for yourself and true love for the other person by moving away to a place they can do you no further harm. There is a chasm of difference between holding compassion and being a doormat. Please strive to understand this difference. Your first order of business is to discover your self-love, hold compassion for self and then you will know how to love and hold compassion for others without becoming a human sacrifice.
Love can change a lot of things but it cannot change psychology from a one-sided perspective (meaning that if the other party continues to throw punches out of fear and pain, that you stand there until you are bruised and bloody). You can still be loving and compassionate by refusing to engage, refusing to participate and do the right thing by all involved with love in your heart.
~Blessings of understanding, compassion and great love beautiful souls.
© 2014 Jaie Hart (photo/words), all rights reserved.