Learning compassion

I've always considered myself a compassionate person.  From my days of campus service projects to my years in social service ministry right through my social work graduate degree to my various jobs, I always just took for granted that I had compassion for, well, everyone.  It wasn't something I examined too closely and I rarely took the opportunity to contrast my self-belief with the way I lived my life, the manner in which I experienced my life.

I am guilt of many self-indulgences, but having compassion for myself is not one of them.  Like many of us, I can be both brutal on myself and stubborn about things I don't want to change.  I am somewhat keenly focused on the suffering of other people, but self-righteous when it comes to my own.  I'm quick to tell you when I've felt discrimination, such as when the man downtown called me a f*cking dyke last year.  I wag my finger and shake my fist at the injustice of it all, but sometimes I get so caught up in the “gay emergency” that I lose sight of the fact that compassion should extend beyond my comfort zone.

I recently had some feedback that I had indulged in some discussions about being gay that I would “crucify” someone else for having.  I was taken aback at that language.  When I was inside my own perspective, I could *get* why I might be having that conversation?  Am I really so unforgiving that I would crucify anyone?  At what point did my quest for equality become a lynch mob? (my words)

Here's where we circle back around to compassion for myself.  The conversation I was having was in the midst of a deep personal crisis and I was hurting.  I've probably criticized other people for indulging in similar thoughts, but the best I can do now is practice what I preach, remember my own frailties and not be so quick to judge other people who don't meet the gay perfection standard. 

But I also need to give myself permission to miss that standard. A lot.  Often.  Many times.  Sometimes. 

One of my goals for 2011 is to infuse this blog with more personal insight, not simply regurgitating and analyzing LGBTQ news.  The truth is that it is hard to blog out loud without exposing some of your warts.  The tendency to cover those warts with snark and self-righteous whatever is very tempting, but it does lessen my credibiliy as a compassionate human being.  I can't undo past experiences where I've crucified anyone, but I am glad to have an opportunity to be more mindful of that flaw. 

Let me be clear.  Holding people accountable for their choices is not crucifying them.  Failing to put myself in their shoes for few moments,  failing to consider their point of view is leading me down that path. 

compassion – the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it.

As wise woman recently told me that once you can have compassion and love for yourself, you will have a twofold ability to give it back. It would be superficial and insincere to suddenly become the font of compassion for people I typically pick apart.  It would be healthy and constructive to start with myself. 

Oh, boy.


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