I will admit this one commenter hurt me deeply. So much so, I am a little gun-shy even now to post this. See, I was perplexed. I didn’t understand how he/she got that from my essay. I reread it several times, trying to ‘hear’ what this commenter heard. I had a hard time even stretching it to where he/she went. And apparently, other commenters felt the same way as myself, not understanding why this teacher reacted so negatively and with such outward anger and hostility. The essay was an appeal for gentleness and compassion. Not receiving that was really a blow. It took me a while to process the whole event, to consider my response and decide what it all meant.
But I believe this teacher’s reaction actually proved my point. And not in the way you might be thinking.
Compassion is not easy.
Compassion is not simple.
Compassion is not only for the good people. The likable people. The easy people.
Compassion is also for… and possibly most needed by… the angry people. The difficult people. The ones who are not nice, or amiable, or positive. Compassion is needed by the people who don’t ask for it, may not appreciate it, and may not return kindness with kindness.
Compassion is the deeper understanding that all humans suffer. We all have pain. In the practice of compassion, we need to take ourselves out of the equation. It is not about me anymore. It is not about my hurts, my sadness, my pain. To practice compassion is to set those aside, and be open and accept that others' pain is real and true, and valid for them. This is not an excuse for bad behavior. Bad behavior must be confronted. Rather, having compassion allows you to deal more effectively, more calmly, and with more grace, the misbehavior of others.
It is SO MUCH easier said than done. When I read the teacher’s comments, I did want to criticize. I did want to lash out. I questioned whether I should keep the post up, whether I could emotionally handle the negative comments. The teacher’s negative comments… this one person… weighed heavy on my heart. The instinct, then, is to react with my pain. It is so hard not to go there… to go to the Angry Place.
However when I took the time to read between the lines, to look past the words, I saw someone who must be in pain. I see in her words anger, defensiveness and hostility. To lash out, to spend the time and energy to post angry words, words not meant to build bridges or foster understand… that must come from a heart in pain. Just like some parents, maybe even myself someday. Disappointment, powerlessness, and a lack of peace? I do not know. But I do believe it wasn’t from my simple little essay on being gentle with parents.
So I have compassion for this teacher, for what she suffers. I hope that she finds a way to have peace and compassion for all the people in her life, even the people who upset her, anger her, come at her with fangs and claws. Whether she deserves it or not doesn't matter. Indeed, I wish others (parents and professionals alike) to be able to find peace through compassion. To do so is a gift to others, and a gift to oneself.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” -- the Dalai Lama