I was on the road earlier today for business and as is my typical habit I was listening to a podcast. The podcast in particular was Mindrolling from the Mindpod Network. In listening, I heard a fantastic quote that I unfortunately cannot attribute to anyone because I was driving and couldn’t write the name down, but the quote was this. “Compassion is finding that piece of yourself when meeting others.”
When we meet new people and we make that unconscious decision that we like them, typically it is a result of finding common ground or shared interests. Perhaps you may not be able to put your finger on exactly what it is, but I think we would all agree you made a connection. You found a piece of yourself, your beliefs or your spirit somewhere inside your new acquaintance. We have all had it happen millions of times.
Maybe the result of this connection is a lifelong friend or significant other. Other times you’ve met someone and shared a connection for the briefest period of time, only to never know their name or see them again. But it was there.
But what do these illustrations have to do with compassion? Barely anything at all to this point, but if you turn over the coin to other side it becomes all too relevant if you’re willing to be honest with yourself.
Were you ever in the same space with someone, not even in close proximity, maybe they were across the room, but you had the strangest feeling of dislike or unease? You could hear them talking occasionally or could see their gestures or facial expressions and it gave you the creeps? Not scary creeps, but uncomfortable, for no obvious reason, creeps.
Perhaps you were introduced to a friend of a friend or were thrown in with someone into a social or work situation and you shot from the hip within a matter of minutes and decided you did not like a person? What is that all about?
Some might call it intuition and they might actually be justified in doing so in some cases, but is there a chance that you are picking up a vibe, a tic, a habit or a sense of something in them that reminds them of you? We all are our own worst critics. We know all the things we dislike about ourselves whether based in reality or our minds. So when we see a real life flesh and blood manifestation of our own negative self images it is more than likely to result in us transferring our personal negativity onto this image of ourselves across the room or across the bar.
I recognized this aspect of my personality, or is it ego, several years ago. There were people I instantly disliked or distrusted and I stubbornly trusted my gut instinct without much introspection. I hoped upon hope that I never crossed paths with that person again and if I was stuck with them in the moment or ran across them again, I would attempt personal contact at all costs. At times I would get so antsy or uncomfortable, I would tell Misty, my wife, “It’s time to go” and make an excuse as to my speedy exit.
For better or worse, life sometimes sees fit to teach us the lesson and in many instances you keep coming across your so called nemesis despite your best efforts. At first you label it as bad luck and cannot understand how this person just keeps showing up in your life. Inevitably despite your best effort you will be placed in a situation where you are forced to engage with them or else look like a total monster.
I have come to find that SLOWLY but SURELY after spending time with the person you will come to recognize what is causing you all the angst. As much as two peas in a pod you think your instant friends are, over time you will come to recognize this person being a much closer match to you than you were ever willing to admit to yourself.
Think on it more and spend more time with them and you will see that what was so putting off about them in the beginning was merely a reflection of your own self loathing. They seem to have the same qualities in them that you so despise in yourself.
But my friends, this is not a story of negativity, but a story of compassion.
Given time, after recognizing where your initial trepidation came from, you will not turn away from your self-labeled shared flaws, but pay closer attention to them. In time, the things that were so off putting about that person will be put in perspective, even minimized as they should be, and seen in the context of the whole person.
Sure this person gets kind of loud when they’re excited (or drinking beer or wine) and if you don’t know them, it can be annoying. Once you get to know them, your marvel at their passion over certain topics. Once you see the whole person as a fellow human those minor flaws will disappear. That is compassion.
More importantly, when you see the so called imperfections in others and love them anyway because you see the whole person, it allows you too, to see those same so called imperfections in yourself and disregard them because you see yourself as a whole person too. That, too, is compassion and it’s the best kind.
Here is another quote that I can’t attribute to anyone, but pretty wells sums up my thoughts.
“Go and love someone exactly as they are. And watch how quickly they transform onto the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.”
Empower others. Empower yourself. Be compassionate.
Look for a piece of yourself when meeting others.