Love Your Way Through It

Compassion and empathy makes you stronger. You don’t need to walk through this world with a big stick, scream from a bully pulpit or sermonize with fear. Empathy and kindness for even those who hurt you—or those who try to hurt you—only makes you stronger.

It’s really easy to get all wrapped up in status and ambition, to fall into the syndrome where you think the grass is always greener everywhere except your lawn, to be jealous at other people’s accolades or family’s or looks or luck.

            Shakespeare said that comparisons are odious. And that long-dead white guy was right.

            Comparisons make you feel like poop.

            I know that a lot of people try to make themselves feel better by comparing themself to others and find the others lesser.

I’ve had people do it to me all my life. I bet you have, too.

My husband before Shaun was a hospital CEO in a small, local hospital. I was volunteering to decorate for one of the hospital’s two annual fundraisers. I was up on a ladder wearing my favorite Snoopy shoes and jeans, hardly hospital CEO wife clothes, but good stuff for climbing ladders, hauling tables and putting out poinsettias.

My hair was its natural color and in a lopsided ponytail. I had no make-up on.

I’ll never forget these two wealthy ladies about two decades older than me loudly saying, “What does he see in her?”

            I tottered on the ladder a bit and the person helping me knew that I heard. It would have been impossible not to hear.

            “Don’t listen to them. They have miserable small lives and they’re jealous. Just jealous shrews,” the helper said.

            She might have been right, but it didn’t matter right that second.

I heard their words and for a moment they hurt me, but then I just felt so sad for them. How lonely their lives must be if they had to say that about me. How sad.

All I could do was love them when I thought about the hurt that they must have had inside of their hearts.

            Neither of those women probably even remember that moment, but I do, and I also remember that I made a choice.

            I could have luxuriated in that hurt instead of acknowledging it, seeing it, and then letting it pass through me.

            I could have lashed out at them and matched their pettiness with my own.

            But instead I chose empathy. I had the luxury and safety of doing that because I’m secretly pretty secure in who I am. I love myself even when I suck. I chose to love them when they sucked, too.

            A translation of Dhammapada verse 223 makes it so that  Buddha once roughly said, “Silence the angry man with love. Silence the ill-natured man with kindness. Silence the miser with generosity. Silence the liar with truth.”

Some translations use ‘overpower’ rather than ‘silence.’

Overpower the angry man with love.

            Love your way through it.

            Compassion and empathy makes you stronger. You don’t need to walk through this world with a big stick, scream from a bully pulpit or sermonize with fear. Empathy and kindness for even those who hurt you—or those who try to hurt you—only makes you stronger.

Let’s all be strong together, okay?


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