There are always three sides of the story. There’s your first person view. The observations and inferences you make. The things you deduce. The assumptions.
Then there’s the other person’s view. Made up similarly of largely subjective notions.
The third point of view is the actual objective truth.
In family law there’s a saying that there are three points of view: Hers, his and the truth. For survival, it’s necessary that we make certain assumptions as we go about our day. After all, if our brains weren’t able to make snap second judgments, we’d surely perish.
But our humanity allows us to move past the ability to survive and pushes us into the terrain of being able to thrive. We can choose to use our human brain to look beyond our own point of view and begin to engage in rewarding exercise of practicing compassion.
I once read that compassion is “the heart that trembles in the face of suffering.” So often we look at people’s suffering and make judgments about whether or not they had it coming.
And maybe they did bring it upon themselves. But does that make them any less worthy of our compassion? Who amongst us hasn’t chosen poorly at one point or another?
The bible says let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I once had a yoga teacher who said that everything you can perceive you are yourself. It sounded like a load of hooey, yet it haunted me.
I thought about it for weeks. I’m not a murderer, I’d think. But I’ve killed my share of bugs. I’m not a thief. But I’ve been guilty of stealing someone’s joy, by being negative about something that they were excited about.
The point is not to excuse or let someone off the hook for bad behavior, but rather to cultivate a feeling of empathy or sympathy for our shared expression of human suffering. To be able to hold space for another in their time of crisis and convey the message that you understand because you’ve been there. We’ve all been there.
The one who’s mourning. The one who’s hurting. The one who can’t seem to figure out how to ever appreciate the sun shining again. It’s easy in these low moments to feel alone and it’s so important to know that you’re not.
When someone tells us that they’re going through a rough time, we tend to say things like “reach out if you need me” or “let me know if there’s anything I can do.” While these sentiments are nice, the problem is that people who are going through it frequently won’t reach out.
So don’t put it on them to be the one. Be proactive yourself. Come up with an idea of what you’re going to do and then just tell them. I’m going to bring you dinner tomorrow. Hey, let’s go to a movie on Tuesday. I thought it might be nice if I picked your kid up and took them to the arcade on Thursday so you can have a break. You get the drift. This coming week, resolve to proactively love somebody a little extra and watch the world become just a little nicer.
As always, I’d love to hear from you and can be reached through my criminal defense firm’s site at www.shanastein.com/contact