Welcome to this glorious Saturday, November 7, 2020! Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
I’m in the business of Compassion. And by Compassion, I mean the removal or reduction of suffering. Sometimes, when I’m doing things that seem kind and loving, I can unwittingly add to or trigger suffering in another.
I was caught by surprise this morning when I got an email from one who I admire and am fortunate to consider a friend. I feel blessed to know them. This person reached out because they wanted to share with me how my tagline, “I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it,” was a trigger for them.
Many of us have been harmed and mistreated by those who say that they love us. I know that I have. I also know that I have harmed and mistreated those that I love. It’s sad that this happens. Nevertheless, it does.
When I first read the email, I interpreted the trigger to be, “I love you,” does not guarantee that I won’t harm you. It’s true that unhealthy motivations and a lack of awareness can be the conditions for us to harm those we love. I started to get a little defensive, thinking, “I’m just trying to convey that I love you unconditionally.” This is a clear example of how the intention behind words and their impact can diverge. Clearly, word choice matters.
It wasn’t the “I love you” that was the issue. It was the “there is nothing that you can do about it” that triggered the defensiveness in my dear friend. Despite having been injured as a defenseless victim myself, it had never occurred to me how my tagline may affect people who have been ‘forced’ into traumatic situations which influence their whole outlook on life. While it’s true that there is very little that we have control over, involuntarily being manipulated, coerced or compelled to do something is not only traumatic, but is also destructive to self-worth.
Through my mindfulness practice, I’m learning just how important it is to listen to the perspectives of others. While things may make perfect sense to me, and I may have the best of intentions to be Compassionate, offer hope, and inspire, I can, without investigation and understanding, increase another’s suffering.
While it is true that we are responsible for our own suffering, and happiness, there are causes and conditions within and outside of us that can indeed trigger pain, which may lead to more suffering. And just because we are ultimately responsible, doesn’t mean we have fully developed the practiced skill of identifying and letting go of self-induced suffering – this week I was reminded that this takes time and patience. I was also gently reminded that making generalized statements is harmful and not an accurate reflection of reality. Not only does word choice matter, context matters.
Though I have come a long way, I aspire to be more Empathetic. After all, Empathy is the foundation of Compassion.
You are loved by me, Unconditionally.
Contribute to the Turning Leaf Foundation
If you would like to help bring Mindfulness to the less fortunate and to help pay for current services, your generosity is deeply appreciated.