The past few weeks have been difficult to follow. There is so much violence in our world today and much of it is coming from intolerance, from people who are unable or unwilling to seek compromise with the other side. For me this reaction is the result of the inability to feel compassion and empathy for others. Although most of us have little control over this arena in world events, we can influence the compassion experienced and communicated in our day-to-day lives.
It takes a lot of strength to be compassionate,especially when you are up against harshness, cruelty, anger and fear. Some mistake the act of being compassionate as a sign of weakness. Others may feel that compassion means giving up everything for someone else, or simply helping people out in times of need such as a natural disaster. While giving to others and extending a helping hand in dire situations are indeed examples of being compassionate, there are other ways.
Acting with compassion can also mean being patient and responding in a nonaggressive way, even when you are being provoked. For example, has someone ever struck out at you for no apparent reason, leaving you hurt, angry and confused by such behavior? Most likely, your initial reaction was to strike back, but if you were able to distance yourself from the experience and not take it personally, you may have had a different reaction.
What if the difficult behavior you experienced actually had nothing to do with you? You may just have happened to cross paths with someone who was in a bad mood for reasons unknown to you. Taking such mitigating factors into consideration could make all the difference in the quality of your communication and also help to give you a different perspective.
This type of communication is called ‘nonviolent communication,’ and it’s about emphasizing compassion rather than negative feelings such as fear, guilt, shame, blame, coercion, threat, or justification for punishment. When we focus on clarifying what we observe, feel, need and want, rather than on diagnosing and judging, we can discover our own compassion. We end up practicing a kind of deep listening to ourselves as well as others. If we are able to look at other people and ourselves with this wider heart, we can begin to change the quality of our communications. This action can affect others as well as ourselves in a positive way.
What I am suggesting, is no easy task, but perhaps it can give you some perspective and hope for dealing with the anger and aggression in a world that feels out of control. If we are able to find peace within ourselves, we will find it around us.