Today's Menu: Reality Sandwich with a side of Compassion

Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced. ~Soren Kierkegaard

We human beings are faced every day with the paradox of our existence - every single human being on the planet is an individual, unique and irreplaceable. We each have a DNA sequence that is like no other, and the individual internal landscape our bodies contain may only be expressed through communicating...and even then, only imperfectly. It cannot be experienced nor wholly shared by any other in quite the same way as the human being to whom that internal landscape belongs. The paradox? Every unique Self is one of 7.5 billion (and counting) other humans. All that to say we have more in common than we don't.

Think about that for a moment.

We have more in common than we don't but it's difficult sometimes to be able to see that. We humans also have the rather unhelpful habit of characterizing each other by what we perceive to be the 'lowest common denominator.' Whatever is easiest...colour, gender, culture, politics...whatever factor about the Other that we perceive to be most different than we understand ourselves to be. Unfortunately, this pigeon-holing usually comes with a dose (along a continuum) of self-righteousness. As in, "We are the standard for right so you must be some sort of wrong."

What kind of a world might this be if differences provoked compassionate curiosity instead of polarizing judgment? Or, what if we chose to look for our many commonalities as a mindful, conscious habit? Or better yet, practice both?

I see human beings who are all sorts of colours, genders, sizes, cultures, name it, I've probably seen that human being, here, and in other places in the world. People everywhere are individuals, bringing a unique sense of Self developed in the crucible of their own lived experiences. And yet, the ways they are the same is also reality.

  1. Everyone loves. We are wired for connecting emotionally and physically, and even the most damaged of humans finds a way to do that. A pet, a place, a person...we connect however we have the capacity to manage, and in connecting we risk loss. Grief is a universal human experience.

  2. Everyone chooses 'Option A.' We make the choices we do based on the knowledge we have at the time the choice made. No one...looks at the options they have and picks 'D.' At that time and in that place, we make the decisions we do because we are hoping/planning for the best outcome possible given the circumstances. That outcome doesn't always happen and looking back, we tend to judge ourselves harshly for the decision that we made, unwilling to accept that if we had some sort of 'Cosmic Do-over' without new information, we would make exactly the same decision again. Self-criticism is a universal human experience.

  3. Everyone makes mistakes. There isn't a human being on the planet who doesn't make mistakes. We have wrong information. We don't have sufficient skill. We don't feel well. We overestimated our resources. We were tired. We fail to be perfect for about a bazillion reasons, all of them having to do with our humanity. We're not machines. We can only be so consistent. We bring the worries of the moment to whatever we do, and we are always learning. Success and failure are not enemies or opposites, they are two different sides of the same coin - effort. There can be no success without failure because practice is required for proficiency. What is practice but trying and failing, trying again and failing better, trying harder and succeeding? Failure is a universal human experience.

  4. Everyone has facets of themselves they try to never expose to others (and sometimes, not even to themselves). We all suspect deep down we're flawed in ways we probably can't articulate. Granted, I've not personally interacted with every human being on the planet, but the humans I have been privileged to know are 100% on this ride. In fact, I don't know anyone, personally or professionally, who doesn't experience embarrassment or a sense of humiliation when s/he believes something they don't like about themselves (or hoped was hidden to others) has been exposed. Self-protection is a universal human experience.

  5. Everyone has a game face. Those people we see that seem to have it all together? You know...on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or at the local Starbucks? They have not got it all together. I guarantee it. We human beings live with some degree of internal distress others know virtually nothing about. Even those whose lives are clearly messed up - as odd as it might seem, they are no different. That addiction...that chaos...that evident dysfunction? That's a game face even if we don't recognize it for what it is. Imagine the depth of the well of trauma that makes addiction anyone's 'game face.' Pain is a universal human experience.

So, what to do?*

  1. Be kind. Nowadays, we can choose to be anything we want to be. Choose to be kind. ~Maya Angelou

  2. Be kind. Don’t judge the whole story by the chapter you walked in on. ~Anonymous

  3. Be kind. Don’t judge people for the choices they make when you don’t know the options they had to choose from. ~Women Working

  4. Be kind. When you judge you have no space to love. ~Mother Theresa

  5. Be kind. When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself. ~Wayne Dyer

  6. Be kind. He who is deprived of kindness is deprived of goodness. ~Sahih Muslim 2592

On a personal note, the tagline I use for social media is, "Bossy from birth, compassionate by choice, funny by accident." (I'm an oldest child, a psychotherapist by profession, and often serious.) I've learned over these past 55 years that I always have the option to be compassionate. Always. A L W A Y S...because it truly is a choice.

*Excerpted from bazaar Kuwait 06/2018

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Why do we need compassion?