“The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.” — Jim Carrey
Perhaps the hardest thing for human beings to do in life is let go.
When I say let go, I’m referring to our view of the way we think things should be. Compassion in today’s world generally runs on the lesser end of the spectrum. Not to discredit the overwhelmingly generous and caring people in the world, but I think we can all stand to exercise our kindness muscles more consistently.
Human beings are inherently selfish in nature. Everything we do is almost always to make ourselves feel good. And there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, we’re the ones that have to live with ourselves. The automatic of the mind is not happiness, so it’s understandable we take corrective action to advance our expedition along the pathway to bliss.
So it’s interesting to analyze some of our daily behaviors, especially when it comes to dealing with other people.
When interacting with other people, we’re often stopped. We notice a discernible difference in the way they behave, which typically opposes the approach we would take, and then we’re stuck. We’re hung up on it. We can’t let it go.
We’ll sit there for days, months, sometimes years if it means proving a point. We willingly agree to hauling around the metaphoric suitcase if it means we get to be justified and validated.
We see things not the way they are, but the way we are
What’s truly evolved my experience of life, is the shift in the way I look at things. This didn’t come from out of nowhere. This came from a straining, uncomfortable self-analysis of why I had such a hard time seeing the good in people.
And the reality was, I didn’t see the good in me. I only focused on what was wrong.
By affirming I wasn’t good enough, it showed up everywhere else. I didn’t see anyone else as good enough, either. I cut everyone down to the level in which I perceived myself to be at, if for no other reason than to simply make life more bearable for me.
When I worked through all my self-defeating constructs, I finally acknowledged my greatness. And not greatness by conventional or comparative standards, but the eminence that lies in each and every one of us — the ability to step outside of what’s ordinary.
So the next time I get jammed up and robbed of happiness through my issue with another, I have to look first at how I’ve been treating myself. If I’m having a problem I can’t let go of, it’s probably because I have a problem with me I haven’t dealt with — or maybe even recognized yet.
Everyone is doing the best they can
One of my favorite books is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. A simple yet powerful guide to personal freedom, one of Ruiz’ agreements is “always do your best.”
“The first three agreements will only work if you do your best. Don’t expect that you will always be able to be impeccable with your word. Your routine habits are too strong and firmly rooted in your mind. But you can do your best. Don’t expect that you will never take anything personally; just do your best. Don’t expect that you will never make another assumption, but you can certainly do your best.”
Along the same lines, college football Hall of Famer, the late Wes Felser argued,
“There’s nothing more perfect than doing your best.”
When we do our best, something more powerful than the breakthrough results we achieve takes place: we notice we’re still not perfect.
No matter what, we’ll never be perfect. Which is wonderful, because we’ll always have something to strive for. A reason to get up in the morning. And perhaps most importantly, there will always be a difference to be made for another person.
When we do our best, it spreads to all components of the psyche — including the development of grace and forgiveness. We wrap our head around the magnitude of the challenge that is consistent, daily progress. And how much tougher it can be for someone else who’s not being as deliberate with their actions.
With the default of the mind set on survival mode, it’s understandable why people wait around and react. It can be a challenge for people to simply get up in the morning when they are at odds with what’s going on in their head. This is where compassion is critical — it might not be pretty, but their behavior is the best they can present in that moment.
This doesn’t mean to throw up our hands and sigh in resentful acceptance. It doesn’t mean we endorse an erratic way of being. It simply means we have an opportunity, a responsibility rather, to make a difference.
So many of us claim to be up to a big game in life. We have all these plans, all these goals, all these action items. If we suppose this to be true, there’s duty that comes along with that big game. And we can’t hide from it.
Responsibility is doing everything in your control to cause a better outcome, all the time. No shortcuts. It doesn’t always leave you feeling immediately empowered or satisfied. But if people only did things for instant gratification in life, we would all be screwed.
If you look to anyone else to take responsibility, you’re abdicating your own. Your avoiding taking responsibility for being the best you can be, as looking somewhere you do not control and hoping it magically shifts is a fool’s errand — one that damn sure isn’t on the blueprint to the life you love.
You won’t win every argument. You won’t always get your point across. But when you’re truly committed to a big game in life, which hopefully includes compassion for others, what’s meant to show up will show up.
This involves a little bit of faith that what you did was enough. Trust what you do at your best is enough. And if you didn’t do your best, don’t beat yourself up over it. If you were full of shit, own it. Acknowledge it with the person you were acting that way with. Only the actions that are in line with your commitments will lead you to a life of freedom and fulfillment.
Bringing it all together
By latest research, about 350 million people are depressed. With one out of roughly every 20 you meet suffering in silence, we don’t have room to mess this up. You decide what you want in life. If you want to be fulfilled, you have to make a difference for someone else.
Not everyone will like you, and their opinion is their business — not yours. If they choose an opinion that doesn’t support the belief that mankind is full of individual and collective miracles, let them deal with that. Don’t muck up everything you’re committed to in life for one person’s stamp of approval. Odds are, it will take care of itself when they are finally desperate enough to give up all disarming ways of thinking.
Everyone is on the same journey through time together, with differing speeds of advancement. With differing degrees of character development. It’s all unfolding at the pace in which it’s meant to, not in the way we want it to. Everyone’s story has value, and even if we don’t fully comprehend the narrative, it doesn’t make it any less precious.
Just as there will always be someone more talented than we are, there will always be someone less fortunate. Someone born and raised into dire circumstances outside of their control. Someone still developing their self-control. Someone still struggling to find out who they are. We can be leaders and stand for them with kindness, or we can be cowards and point to them in ridicule.
“Love is not just looking at each other, it’s looking in the same direction.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Negative views about others only serve the self. We’re so similar as a species, but are so quick to segregate and declare immunity over certain struggles.
The absence of struggle is actually struggle. It’s a type of denial. No one is a finished product. We all screw up, taking on an array of varying forms.
And since we’re all selfish, we can lean in to this natural inclination and locate ourselves in other people, as this is the key to unlock true love, empathy, and compassion.