I’ve had several conversations over the last month or so that seem to circle around the same theme of challenges in various types of relationships. In each conversation a friend was trying to be caring to someone else at deep cost to themselves. Maybe they felt obligated beyond what their personal energy allowed at that time. Maybe they felt the other person was undeserving but at the same time judged themselves for not feeling more magnanimous. Maybe they were distressed by a difficult dynamic and wanted relief by eliciting the other person’s caring with their own.
As I listened, I could almost feel the energy draining out of them as they focused on the other person. They were all trying to give to someone else the compassion they denied themselves. I just wanted to put my hand over their heart and whisper love into their soul.
The love we long for, the peace we pray for, the compassion we hunger for, all bubble up from the spring of self acceptance. If I’m not feeling the compassion I think I “should” be feeling for someone else, I can be pretty sure that the reason does not lie with them, but with me. And not because I am at fault or defective in some way. But because I’m not accepting myself and loving myself as I am.
A few days ago, I accidentally caused an injury to my dog. It happened because I was in a hurry and being careless. When I saw what I had done, I felt horrible. I raced her to the vet. As the vet assured me that my dog would be fine, that we all make mistakes, and that I was a good “dog mother” for bringing her in so quickly, I was crying and arguing with her that I was a terrible person who, through my own thoughtlessness, had hurt this innocent little animal. It didn’t help that my dog did not hold a grudge, and on the contrary, was licking my hand and wagging her tail and trying to make me feel better.
I know that’s not the same scenario I was describing in the conversations with my friends, but after I calmed down, I was struck by hard it is to love ourselves, especially when in our own eyes we have fallen short. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could love ourselves the way our dogs love us? If we could, then I believe that some of these tangled relationships would unravel and smooth out.
I’m not saying that the relationships would look a certain way, or that the other person involved would act any differently. I’m saying that we would be different, that we would act from a place of love in whatever appropriate form that might take. So when you find yourself in a difficult dynamic with someone, pause and step back from engaging. Turn your attention to yourself. How can you love yourself, accept yourself, show yourself compassion in this situation? If you need some help with this, go hang out with your dog.
Walk sweetly with yourself. Find every reason possible to love who you are. ~Emmanuel