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Loving Unlovable People: When Compassion Gets Real.

Confessions of a Pity Party: When Compassion Gets Real.

Confessions of a Pity-Party

This month I offer you my Confessions of a Pity Party. It is a little bit embarrassing to even put it out there for all to read, but that is the nature of a “confession”, isn’t it? It is me sharing with you my faults and failures, and then sharing the lesson I learn from them. So, here we go…

If you have worked with me before, you know how much I teach about compassion - both for ourselves and others. I believe love and compassion always lead us to a better place AND creates a much better experience along the way.

However, let’s get real. Compassion is not always my go to. I, like everyone else, have a strong negativity bias that likes to take center stage and judge anything and everything it can, especially when I encounter people I am not particularly fond of.

Well, this past week, I was in the presence of a man that I find really challenging to be around. Not because he is a bad person per say, but because my Inner Critic thinks he shouldn’t behave the way he does sometimes. I interpret his actions as arrogant, patriarchal, and over-bearing, so therefore I usually just try and avoid extended conversations with him.

But the other day, it was unavoidable. And boy did my Judge take center stage. It was yelling in the background, “Man, he is so arrogant. Why does he treat people like that? He acts like we are stupid children who need to be taught by the Great and Powerful Oz. Ugh, I can’t listen to this!”

I felt the tightening in my chest. The curling in of my body. I averted my eyes, wanting to crawl out of my skin. It felt miserable.

But then I had an idea! I could do the same thing I do with my clients- help them cultivate curiosity and compassion. So, I whipped out my power question, asking myself in my coach voice, “Why might he be acting this way? What must HE be feeling in this moment?”

And boy, oh boy, did I come up with a great story. I thought, “Hmmm… He is kind of short. He might have little-man syndrome. He’s probably really insecure.” Okay. Good. That idea helped me be less judgey. Keep going. “What else?” “Well, he’s pretty rotund, so I wonder if he was kind of chubby as a kid and got bullied a lot. He might not have had many friends. Yeah, I bet that is it. He probably only had his brain to rely on, so that is his defense mechanism - to use his ‘smarts’ to prove his value and worth.” (I am cringing even writing this, but at the time, it seemed like a good idea.) In that moment, with this well-crafted sad story of why this man must act so arrogantly, I moved from judgment to what I thought was compassion. And that felt really good.

Because I was super proud of my ability to turn a 180 in my thoughts and feelings towards this man, I shared this story with my 14-year-old daughter (in hopes of her learning a thing or two from her brilliant mother).

After finishing my story, she replied in a tone seething with sarcasm “Good job, Mom. I’m glad you came up with a story about him being a weird, fat kid who didn’t have any friends and was bullied, and the only thing he had going for him was his brain. If that is what it takes for you to have ‘compassion’, then go for it.”


Man, she called it out! And I felt so embarrassed. Here I was trying to be a good example to my daughter, but to my utter shock and dismay, she saw right through it all. And taught me a thing or two about compassion. Compassion doesn’t demean people or strip them of honor and dignity. That is called pity. True compassion occurs when you see the best in people - despite their behaviors and defense mechanisms - and recognize the honor, value, and dignity they have as another fellow human being.

I might have been able to move one step up - from judgment to pity. But is that what I was going for? No. I don’t want to hang out with pity. Still not the highest goal here. My story still needed some tweaking. Lots of it. But it was a start.

The point of all of this is…Compassion is truly a powerful emotion. Curiosity is a beautiful tool. But it takes PRACTICE. It means learning how to see others as “just like me”, rather than “other than”. It requires giving people the benefit of the doubt. It means creating a story that brings honor, dignity, and respect to that individual. And that is not always easy to do, ESPECIALLY when you don’t like the person much. But such is my growth. And I think, the growth of many others too.

For me, that looks like this - “If I am going to make up a story about someone, then make up the very BEST story I can. And by doing that, I become the BEST that I can.”

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