COMPASSION IS THE BIGGEST FLEX
By: Lauren Anderson
I found myself a little lost the other day in the U of M campus. Between the construction and the one-ways, and all the co-ed summer students getting from A to B, it’s amazing that I ever made it out alive.
I was stuck on one of those streets. You know, the ones by the old brick buildings that no one ever really drives on because it’s mostly just foot traffic? Yeah. One of those.
So I stayed stopped at a stop sign for a little bit longer than I should’ve, to type an address into my navigation app. (Yes, I know no one calls it a navigation app… but for the life of me I can’t think of the name of that thing. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.)
When I looked up there was this young white kid on a bike just scowling at me. Like, not only was I a monster that still used a CAR, but that I was also wasting this precious young white male’s time by making him wait to cross the street. And the biggest culprit? How dare I TEXT AND DRIVE?!
But I wasn’t texting! I was safely stopped at a stop sign with no other cars to be found. And I was lost! Should I have pulled over to do what I set out to accomplish? WELL YES. In a perfect world, OF COURSE THAT IS THE CORRECT THING TO DO.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world of compromises.
When I look up to see this young-white-righteous-male-on-a-bike, I can tell he’s yelling at me. My windows are up, but I can hear him mouth the words. “Don’t text and drive Bitch.”
The old me would’ve flipped him off and drove away indignant. Or perhaps I would’ve mouthed sorry and drove away sheepishly. Excusing myself and chastising myself for not doing THE ABSOLUTE MOST PERFECT THING ALL OF THE TIME.
But let me tell you friends, that’s not my mood anymore.
I don’t know what came over me. I didn’t move my car, or wave him past– I rolled down my window. He decided to yell at me some more. “Don’t text and drive Bitch!”
Ah. So that IS what he said before. Now I had confirmation.
You can tell he was riled up and ready to lay into me about the “dangerous thing” that I was doing. Neglecting to acknowledge that calling a stranger a name is also dangerous and violent.
Instead of explaining myself so he wouldn’t be mad at me, or getting mad myself and yelling profanity back at him, I looked him right in the eye, and calmly said,
“You don’t know what’s happening with me today, and I forgive you.”
He stopped mid-huff and kind of ate his next words. He went silent, and tilted his head, like a puppy trying to figure out where you’re going to put down the food bowl.
He sort of looked at me, trying to figure out what just happened. But I could feel the tension melt away. Everything he thought that was happening in this moment had been called into question.
And because I was calm, and I “forgave him” I don’t think he knew what to do with all that. He was– dare I use my favorite word— GOBSMACKED.
I gently put down my phone, rolled up my window, and drove forward. Through my rear view mirror, I could see that the righteous-young-white-male-on-a-bike-in-a-hurry was still sitting where he was. AND HE STAYED THERE UNTIL I ROUNDED THE CORNER.
Haha! What just happened? Well, if I had to guess, I think I just showed… Compassion?
I just flexed in a way I have never flexed before, and it felt SO POWERFUL.
I remember laughing in the car on my way back to civilization– because it felt genuine. Like I was out of the Matrix, and I could see all sides of this exchange. I didn’t get mad right back– that would’ve escalated the problem.
I didn’t apologize for something that I didn’t really do.
Besides, I don’t owe that kid an explanation. I wasn’t fully right, and either was he.
Instead, I said what was my most authentic truth. And I did it in a kind way. And instead of demanding an apology– that I would’ve NEVER received btw– I skipped straight to forgiveness. Because I have the ultimate power to forgive. My forgiveness doesn’t hinge on him.
And it was the real deal. I really did forgive that kid for calling me a B.
AND IT WAS EXHILARTING. I felt like Captain Marvel when she was all “I don’t have to prove anything to you.” to Jude Law and walked away.
I’m not trying to get religious or anything here, but I couldn’t help but think, “Hmmm, maybe these Gandhi and Jesus guys are ON TO SOMETHING.” And I giggled, and drove home.
Now before you roll your eyes and think I’m comparing myself to Gandhi or Captain Marvel, I’m not. But there is something to be said for exercising their most powerful tool in places– and to people– that aren’t expecting it. Compassion attack!
Nothing can top it. Nothing can beat it. Nothing can heal like it.
Perhaps that’s why on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Acceptance is at the top. And you can’t have compassion without acceptance of what is.
Or on the Levels of Love scale, it’s known that Lust is our most basic form of showing love. Moving through romantic love, into friendship etc. And right at the top is Compassion.
Compassion is our most elite way to love someone.
But it’s easy to show compassion to people I love. So what if I start doing this more and more with uppity-young-cyclists? Or people that irritate me on the regular? Or people I disagree with on the internet?
Or myself? Or my own body?
HOLY SHIT. Talk about a flex right?
There are like, jillions of people that already do this. This is no new thing.
But remember, I was an angry baby bird for most of my life, so this stuff is still new to me. I don’t think I lacked compassion before…but I don’t think I was giving it the credit that it truly deserves.
And I didn’t realize how powerful it was. I, like many others, used to try and act tough. Never let anyone see me cry. Never show the soft stuff. I am the one that would ALWAYS fight back.
But through lots of work, and lots of self discovery, and honestly finding love and compassion for my own body–I’ve found vulnerability to be the most powerful tool. And compassion to be the biggest show of true strength.
And forgiveness has very little to do with other people– Lately it seems like a choice. It’s more like a contract you make with yourself.
And showing compassion in the face of hard stuff? Well–that’s some kind of King-Kong-Top-Of-The-Mountain level of flex, in my opinion.
So, cut to the other day.
I’m at rehearsal, and I tweak my wrist again. It hurts. It’s an old injury, and it’s a frustrating one. If you’ve followed this blog from the jump you may recall, I have tendentious.
It makes me feel helpless and invalid, and I HATE feeling that way. It keeps me from being very mobile. It sometimes even keeps me from the gym.
When my wrist acts up, I always go through a series of steps. Anger, frustration, sadness etc.
But this last week? I tried compassion instead.
I stopped, and tried to feel deep empathy for my tiny little tendon. It’s so small and it has to do so much. No wonder it gets tired! No wonder it gets inflamed.
I sent it some love. I told my wrist that I understood. It doesn’t need to be yelled at. It needs rest and time to heal.
(Maybe like that guy on the bike? Maybe like that co-worker that said the wrong thing? Maybe like me for not being perfect in every way? Hmmm….)
And to my surprise… because I talked to my body part this way, I didn’t seem to go through the stages that I usually do when I get a wrist flair up. It’s like I skipped those steps and landed right back at forgiveness.
I forgave myself for being hurt. I wrapped my wrist up and let it rest.
And I swear– my wrist felt better faster, than it did when I went about it the old way.
So… what’s that mean?
Well, I think on my ever-winding road to total mind, body, and spirit fitness, it seems compassion is a tool that I was overlooking. Or if I’m being more compassionate to myself, maybe I needed all this time to heal and grow enough that I could finally see it.
That if I value strength in all aspects of the self like I say I do, then I’ve been seriously overlooking the strongest thing.
Within the week, I was shown two separate instances where being compassionate made all the difference, with the world, and even within my own body.
And now there is no going back.
Then I giggled and shook my head again.
Mother Theresa and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr knew it all along…This compassion stuff WERKS.