Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Compassion: Greater Than A Word in the Dictionary

You’re driving down the road. The Cadillac in front of you isn’t certain which lane to choose. The median seems to be a sort of PacMan trail. What is your response?

a.       The Muttering begins. I mean seriously why does this guy have a license. Pick a lane already. Then you accelerate quickly to pass the driver and note that it’s an older man which further fuels the the internal vent on the stupidity of drivers nowadays.

Or do you …

b.      Slow down. Recognize that the snow banks surrounding the road make the lanes seem a bit like a 1 ½ lane tunnel. After all, you’re gonna get where you’re going eventually. Enjoy the music playing on the radio and relax.

You’re in line at a coffee shop. The individual at the front is ordering for the Entire office and everything seems to be a special order. How do you react?

a.       Seriously? I just want a cup of coffee … How long is this gonna take? Couldn’t they have waited ‘til the line was shorter?

Or do you …

b.      Make conversation with someone standing behind you. It is what it is. Just need to chill out and wait your turn. 

You’re running a meeting or routing a communication. An individual tells you that you’ve done something that – in her opinion – isn’t right. You’ve messed up. What do you say? More importantly, what is your inner dialogue?

a.       Do you get defensive? Do you apologize? Do you take it to heart? Do you bite your tongue at the moment, mouthing something insincere, and then complain as soon as she’s out of hearing? Do you hold onto the criticism? Do you let it ruin your day?

Or do you …

b.      Accept her opinion, graciously respond and let it go? Do you try to learn something from the encounter? Do you remember that we are all of us imperfect despite our best intentions? 

Are you an A or B? Really … honestly?

When the Oscars aired on television earlier this year, a quick glance at Facebook the morning after reminded me why I was 30 days sober from that site. Comments about the dresses and breathing during songs and cracking and speeches … It’s toxic. It’s so easy to criticize in a place where you are just a picture on the page, isn’t it? But do we honestly believe that the proclaimed anonymity of a written “comment” gives us some type of permission for arbitrary remarks and unkindness? Typed words can still cut as deep as those spoken face to face.

Go ahead. Let your fingers do the walking and "Post" something mean and snippy on Facebook. Do you feel good now? Vindicated? You don't see the hurt in someone's eyes as they note the "Comment." Does that clear you of your responsibility?

What happened to compassion for our fellow man? To understanding that our view of reality -- a situation, a person, a project, an idea, a performance a ... whatever ...  is not the only one or the absolute "correct" one? What happened to respecting choices and decisions and opinions and ideas and religions and relationships that exist whether we agree with them or not? 

When did it become all about me? My inconvenience … my self-righteousness … my wants, desires and needs. When did my ideas, opinions or wishes become more relevant than someone else’s?

And what happened to Tolerance and Compassion.

Dickens’ once wrote: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.” It was a beautiful commentary on selflessness and compassion from the novel A Tale of Two Cities. Today’s audiences might note its origination in Star Trek Out of Darkness. It was also used in The Wrath of Khan and probably numerous other projects. It denotes sacrifice. It highlights the importance of looking beyond ourselves and our own personal agendas/needs/wants to a world of people in need. It inspires us to be greater than ourselves ... to be more understanding, loving, giving, forgiving and compassionate.

In those moments when we are "inconvenienced" or tempted to look at someone judgmentally, we don’t know what’s happening with them. We can't possibly understand their lives or experience or challenges. We can rage. We can disconnect. We can be cruel. Or we can choose to embrace compassion. 

I may not always get what I want. I may be denied and rejected. I may be criticized and inconvenienced. But when it happens to me, I can choose how I respond. I can choose to resist the urge to climb on the bandwagon and point out the flaws. I can look at that remark on Facebook and my flashing curser with all its destructive power and log out.

Or not.

My definition of compassion can be found very simply in the book of Micah, Chapter 8: God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but Typed or Spoken, our words possess the power to build up or tear down. When presented with the option, I want to choose to look around me with compassion. To curb my tongue and fingers in favor of recognizing that diversity and different opinions exist. And that's a good thing.

A or B …. Where do you find yourself? Where do you want to be?
                                                                                                               -- Jenni