Let me tell you a story about compassion…
The other day, I am in a whirlwind of busyness and I am in hurry.
As usual, I am trying to fit too much into my day.
I am frazzled and hungry and just want to get home.
I stop by the grocery store to pick up a few things.
All of a sudden, a black SUV cuts in front of me and takes the parking space I am waiting for!
I immediately get very hot under the collar! How dare she? Are you kidding me? Who does that?? I really want to cuss like hell, I kind of want to get out of my car and… I want to do a lot of things…
Instead, I decide to take a deep breath so that I don’t explode. After a moment’s pause and with the intention of gathering myself, I realize she is not shooting at me, she has not hit my car, she is not cussing at me. She is gathering her purse and getting out of her car. I am not in danger after all! As I breathe, I take all of this in.
So instead of stop, drop and roll, I stop, think and respond. Even though I am not in any danger, I still think this person has done a very inconsiderate thing!
So what did I do?
I take yet another deep breath or two and remind myself that I have a superpower. My superpower is awareness, and awareness gives me:
- Access to the glorious part of me
- Access to the tools that come with that
- The choice to use those tools (even when I am pissed off about this horribly inconsiderate move)
So I decide to go for compassion from my golden tool bag.
Through the lens of compassion, I think about the other driver and her life experience.
I realize that I don’t know whether she may have just been to the hospital to visit her dying mother or perhaps maybe has just lost her job.
It might be that she is having a terrible, awful, horrible day or even an Annus Horribilus (think Queen Elizabeth, 1992).
It could be that she is simply oblivious to her own behavior or maybe she just feels entitled to take my parking spot!!! I don’t know if any of this is true and it is certainly not my job to find out.
All I do know is that she is human and that everyone on this earth has some struggle that is not evident to the world. So, I can make a pretty good assumption that things are not perfect in her life just as they are not perfect in mine. I now sort of begin to see her as a struggling fellow human.
What did I do next?
I have my moment with compassion. I feel for the state of both of our lives and decide that I want to extend compassion to her and also to myself as two humans colliding in a very tough world.
I sit with this for a moment. Yes, this feels right.
I take yet another deep breath and begin to look for another parking space. I feel just a little bit powerful because I am not allowing someone else’s behavior and my reaction to it to dictate my future.
Instead of reacting (like a crazy person), I am responding and because of this choice I am not spending my next moments being angry, pissed off, or wishing some wonderful disaster on her. (I do have a pretty big imagination).
I move on with my life and focus on the task at hand. I pick up the ice cream and pasta and get back to my cozy home and family. I also take just a moment to acknowledge the kind of person I can choose to be if I want to.
Electing to be your glorious self is a choice. The payoff is getting to experience the best of your own humanity.