Okay. I’ve decided it’s time. I’m giving you an even deeper look into my own mind today. I’m going to show you, situation by situation, exactly how I practice a simple principle in order to create my inner peace, moment by moment in my life. Are you ready for this? :)
If you’re like me, or like most of us in this big world, you’ve had a time where someone else’s actions have really upset you. Maybe they really made you angry. Maybe you found a heartbreaking sadness underneath some of that anger. Maybe you felt betrayed, left out, bewildered, or abandoned and alone. And maybe you noticed that every time you thought of them and what they did, you started to feel upset all over again.
There’s no getting around the fact that some of our life experiences can leave us with some deep scars. And nowhere can this be more true, I’ve found, than when it involves some of the relationships we have with others. However, I’ve also come to understand that no matter how upset, angry, or hurt I feel over something that someone else has done, there is a deep level of humanity that resides within that person, deep underneath any action that they could possibly make. And with practice, I’ve come to see that finding the human in everyone has been essential for my overall deep inner peace.
I know I have quite the knack for making things much more complicated than they need to be. ;) So today, I want to keep this as simple for you as possible. How can we find the human in everyone? I want to share with you some quick examples of how I actually apply this principle in my daily life. And yes—that means I’m giving you a look into my mind! Scary, right? ;)
Here’s the basic understanding of how this works for me: I either use what I know about a person to contemplate their humanity, or I use what I can imagine may potentially be happening in their lives. Either way, I’ve found, can be super effective, because either way is based in allowing myself to go deep into my own levels of human empathy and compassion.
I’ve found that I can use this principle so often, with any action ranging from a scale of 1 representing something that mildly annoys me, all the way up to a 10, when the actions may have involved decades of anger, sadness, and hurt from the same person. Granted, the level 10 actions can definitely take more time to process and work through, as there may have been years of chronic difficult feelings attached to those actions! But I assure you, it can be done. It really can. All it takes is a little softening of these amazing hearts of ours. And softening our hearts doesn’t make us weak—on the contrary, I believe it makes us alive. How well can our hearts beat if they are rigid?! ...But that’s a possible topic for another day. ;)
Okay—now on to the examples. And for the record, all of these are examples of things that have happened to me many times in my life. As such, they are not referencing any specific person or situation.
Example #1: A driver cuts in front of me in the grocery store parking lot to grab that spot I was going to take. And it’s one of the last spots I saw open.
-----First Reaction: Of course I feel angry. Couldn’t they see I had my blinker on? What kind of person do they think they are, anyway, just cutting me off like that?! How dare they!
-----Next Step: I take a deep breath. Okay. That was pretty rude. But maybe they’re having a really bad day today. Maybe they just lost their job. Maybe they just had a huge fight with their partner. Maybe their kid is really sick, and they don’t know what to do. Or maybe they’ve had a lifetime of those situations, and this is the only way they understand how to release their anger. And maybe I’ve had a bad day myself, and that’s why I’m reacting with extra anger to this situation! ;)
-----Final Step: I know how it feels to have had a hard day, even a hard month or a hard several years. So I let the action go. I wish them love, and I continue to search for a new open parking spot. Before I know it, I’ve found one I hadn’t seen before.
In about 30 seconds, I’ve released a situation which I could have chosen to hold anger or annoyance about for much longer, even throughout the rest of the day and possibly even into the next day. But I chose to empathize and to release. Now I have more free energy to focus on finding yummy food for the week. ;)
Example #2: My boss tells me I’m doing a really poor job at work.
-----First Step: I’m upset, angry, sad, and even a little scared. Doesn’t my boss see how much effort I put into my job? What can I do about this? Will this mean I need a new job?
-----Second Step: I look deeper into the reasons why what my boss said may be true. Have I been struggling in other areas of my life and have lost focus at work? Have I had some conflicts with my colleagues that haven’t gotten resolved? I also look into seeing my boss as a human being as well. Are they struggling a lot right now in their own life? Is it normal for them to criticize their employees, and if so, where might their hard feelings have come from? Even if I don’t know directly what has caused their hard feelings, I know I can find empathy for them, knowing that I’ve had hard feelings and challenges in my life as well. I know that they are just as human as I am.
-----Final Steps: I schedule a time to meet with my boss so we can talk about what they’ve told me. Maybe we will be able to have a good open conversation and work out a plan where I can do better at work. Maybe we can better resolve some internal conflicts, if that is a factor. Or maybe my boss isn’t receptive to this kind of conversation, even if I try to bring it up. If that’s the case, maybe I can re-evaluate my own reasons for my performance at work and improve them on my own.
Or maybe my job performance, my changing focus, and/or my boss’s ways of communicating, are actually some signs that it’s time for me to find a new job. I know that I am deserving of having a job that I love and that I can feel is making a valuable contribution to anyone I may work with and to others in the world. I know that life is short. I also know that since my work takes up a large part of my life, I deserve to have it be something that feels like a good fit for me and for anyone else involved. :)
Example #3: I see on the news that someone has committed a horrific act of violence.
-----First Step: I am shocked, upset, angry, and saddened. How could anyone do such an awful thing? I allow myself to feel sad about the event and its repercussions.
-----Second Step: Because I’ve spent so much time observing humanity in myself and others, I understand that anyone who commits a horrific act of violence is very likely deeply disconnected from the part of themselves which knows they are loving, deserving, worthy, and important. I know that if they were connected to this part of themselves, they would never have committed such an act. This doesn’t justify the act or make it okay, of course. However, because I have found myself at times disconnected from my own love in my heart, even though I’ve chosen different actions, in a sense I can actually empathize with all of the victims of this horror, including the perpetrator. I can feel a great outpouring of love and a desire to comfort those whom the perpetrator has hurt. I can also see that the perpetrator is also a victim in a sense, a victim of a deep lack of love, most especially the love inside of their own heart. I can also understand some of the many possible societal contributors to the perpetrator’s acts, in a similar way that I’ve learned how to look for society’s influence in my own life.
-----Final Steps: I see if I can offer any direct help to the remaining victims of the crime. If I am not able to do so, I avoid further coverage of the incident as much as possible. I know that the media will likely be creating additional fear and anger about the incident, proclaiming the perpetrator a “monster” and all sorts of other awful things, without really taking time to find compassion in their hearts and to empathize with the pain of the perpetrator as well as they will rightly do with all of the other victims. And I know that this will likely leave us where it often does—sad, angry, and more scared of our world, without understanding the root causes of these actions and finding it within our society as a whole to open up our emotional capacity and acknowledge our pain, our goodness, and our real importance, so that less and less people become these perpetrators.
I continue to focus on what I myself can do to make myself a better person and to create the change I wish to see in the world. So I take my focus away from the media and back onto what I can actually control. :) Contrary to what the media wants in our society? Absolutely. Potential for much, much greater personal inner peace? Infinite. ;)
Example #4: I have an unexpected argument with a really close friend. They just seem like they can’t hear my side. Why can’t they understand?
-----First Reaction: I’m sad, more than anything, and definitely hurt. This is really unusual. Normally, we’re such good friends, and we share so much in common. But they seemed so unsupportive today, and so combative with me. Even when I asked if anything was wrong, it was like it made them even more upset with me. Is it my fault? What could I have done better?
-----Next Step: Okay. What is my potential part in this argument? Did I catch them at a bad time? Was I insensitive to them? Have I been neglecting our friendship? Also, why might they have reacted this way to me? Have there been other instances in our friendship that may have led them to feel upset with me? Are we both changing a lot as people and growing in different directions? If so, can our friendship handle these changes? Can we both grow with each other, or are we moving in very different and incompatible directions?
-----Third Step: Because this involves a close friend, I summon up my courage and contact them again after our argument, when we’ve both had a chance to cool down. I know that the only way to really move on from this is to discuss it openly and hope we can come to a better understanding. I know that if they are able to do so, we can both work through the reasons for this argument and openly discuss our feelings. And I have faith that our friendship can grow as we grow. However, I also know that sometimes people can grow in very different directions, and though it’s hard, I’m ready to accept that possibility here if things stay strained. I know in my heart that I can’t hold back my own growth for the sake of anything, even what was once a close friendship.
-----Potential Final Step: If things continue to stay strained, I give myself permission to take time away from the friendship. This is when I really imagine my friend even more deeply as a fellow human. I can imagine that maybe there are dynamics within our friendship that remind them of areas in their life which they need to heal for themselves. I can also imagine the same for myself. I know that only I can work on healing my stuff, and only they can choose or not choose to work on healing theirs.
So I commit to healing my own stuff. Where else have I seen similar strained dynamics in my life? What do these particular dynamics remind me of? How can I heal that place in my heart? And how can I see, maybe over time, that my friend has possibly been hurt in similar ways? In seeing my friend as a human, I can empathize with their struggles simply because I’ve had struggles. I can find compassion for them simply because they exist, and if I deserve compassion because I exist as a human, then so do they. And I can always love them deep within my heart, even if our friendship dynamics change or grow in different directions.
Okay. So what do each of these very different examples have in common? :)
Each of these four examples describes a very different possible situation in our lives. Yet in each of them, we have choices. In the first steps, we may naturally feel some very hard initial feelings. Sometimes these feelings can definitely take some time to allow to pass, especially if we are dealing with what has become a chronic situation in our lives. However, we can always start to work through our situations at any time. Therefore, that time frame for how long it can take to work through our harder feelings can really be up to us.
We can choose to continue to stay in our initial hard feelings. Some people do, and some people will stay there for years, even decades of their lives, as their time on this earth passes by without their hearts being able to open and to let go. In staying in those hard feelings, they may find that even little things will start to become big things in their lives, piling hard feelings on top of hard feelings. However, those feelings always need an outlet. Sometimes if built up over much time, they may come out explosively, and other times they may simply eat away at a person, very slowly over time. That is why I think it is so important to give ourselves the gift of discovering and processing our feelings as they occur. In doing so, our feelings are much less likely to come out in more unhealthy ways.
We can choose to allow our initial feelings some time to pass, and then soften our hearts into states of empathy, compassion, and eventually deep peace. We always have this choice, but we need to first acknowledge that we always have it. We don’t need to go through life with hardened hearts. We have a choice.
And I’ve found that I’m totally worth it and deserving of working through any challenging feelings, and, situation by situation, coming into a state of deep inner peace in my life. It is a daily practice to live this way, choice by choice, feeling by feeling, situation by situation. But I have found that it pays amazing heart dividends of peace which money can never buy.
I know that you are definitely worth this kind of peace, too. :)
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No matter what, always remember this: You are deserving, you are worthy, and you are good enough. Keep being you, keep shining, and keep growing!
With great love,