Sunday, November 25, 2007

Compassion Begins With Me

I just read an article called The perils of forced Compassion and Loving-Kindness, Part 1 which was written by Albert Foong of UrbanMonk.Net. The article is posted at http://www.urbanmonk.net/196/the-perils-of-forced-compassion-and-loving-kindness-part-1/

In the first part of Albert's article, he explains the statement of "Why we begin with ourselves". From my own experiences, I agree with Albert when he asks, "How can we give what we don't have?" My answer to that question is, "You can't. I know. I have tried to do just that."

For two years before we moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, my husband and I were foster parents in two different group foster homes. In both homes, we were given a cottage of two - ten boys ages 7-18 years old. Most of the boys were 14-16 years old.

When my husband and I talked about working as foster parents, it was my idea originally. I envisioned us having a girls' cottage. I thought that I could help abused girls learn to love themselves. I thought that I could help them to grow into productive, happy young women who would find love and marriage and children in a Donna Reed/Father Knows Best kind of world. Those were TV shows from the 1950's that represented what the perfect family should be like. They showed what was supposed to be normal, loving, happy families who overcame life's struggles through the support of each other and their faith in God. They were "perfect" families. Not at all like the family that I grew up in.

I thought that if I could help others, then I would have value and everyone would love me because I was doing something special by helping these young girls from troubled homes. Boy, my ego sure sounds pompous even to me. Those were my thoughts back then when I was still looking for ways to feel good about who I was. I was still in denial of how I was being affected by my incest issues.

What I didn't know and the number one lesson that those two years taught me was that I couldn't help anyone until I helped myself. Those teenage boys mirrored my own inner demons of rage and hurt back to me. The main difference, probably the only difference, between me and those boys was that they used their internal rage to rebel against their parents and society. I suppressed mine until one of the boys would act out his rage and then my rage was right there in my face in all of its full-blown strength. I didn't want to see my rage, at that time. I just wanted to deny it and keep it hidden from the world so that I could keep my halo in place. I wanted everyone to see that I was a good little girl. I wanted approval.

Thank you, boys, for teaching me about myself and my rage. That part of my journey prepared me for the next step when I decided that I needed to work on me. Until I loved myself, I couldn't really love anyone else. As Albert's article says, until I felt compassion for myself, I couldn't feel it for anyone else either.

The second part of Albert's article is entitled Loving your enemy. I was my own worst enemy as long as I was a volcano of emotion waiting to explode. Loving any other enemy wasn't possible until I loved myself.

At different times in my life, I tried to forgive my sexual abusers. There was more than one. I didn't know how to protect myself so I attracted several abusers. Most of the time that I tried to do forgiveness was because of a sermon at church that said that I should forgive them. I cried so many tears and thought I had found another area that I was flawed in because I couldn't forgive. I have done four articles on Forgiveness previous to writing this article.

The first article is called Forgiveness, Done In Layers and found at http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2007/06/forgiveness-done-in-layers.html

The second article is called Happy Father's Day, Daddy and found at
http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2007/06/happy-fathers-day-daddy.html

The third article is called Forgiveness Is For You, Not The Other Person and found at
http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2007/09/forgiveness-is-for-you-not-the-other-person.html

The fourth article is called Prelude To Forgiveness and found at
http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2007/09/prelude-to-forgiveness.html

True forgiveness did not come until I chose to forgive myself of my real and imagined transgressions. The first person that I forgave, after myself, was my dad. I looked at what I knew of my dad's childhood and saw him as an angry, hurt little boy. I am not excusing what he did. I chose to see the hurting person inside of him. Because I could feel compassion for myself, I could feel it for the wounded person that my dad was. I now know that he was also just a mirror for my own woundedness.

My mother, who was the co-dependent, emotionally shut-down parent was harder for me to forgive. Forgiveness for my mom could only come after I looked at all of the ways that she used passive-agressive behavior to control people and situations. My dad was openly aggressive with his rage. My mom's rage was buried deeper and made me question was I imagining what she was doing. That kind of behavior can make you feel crazy until you see it for what it is. As a woman and mother, my mom was the main role model for me becoming a woman and mother. I couldn't forgive her until I was willing to forgive the same things in me.

In some ways, I became both of my parents in my sometimes openly aggressive behavior and at other times with my passive-aggressive behaviors. Both were extremes and very unheathy. As an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, I learned that doing extremes is a characteristic of many Adult Children. Those were my experiences of how to deal with my rage. There was no balance.

The openly aggressive rage came out when my volcano of emotions refused to be suppressed even one second longer. My passive-aggressive rage came out in the form of sarcasm. I played word games in my mind and verbally allowing my ego to build itself up and feel superior to others by tearing people down with my words. Who did the sarcasm hurt the most? Me. Most of my "victims" didn't even know that they had been wounded (or so I thought) because I was so clever with words. I was a master of sarcasm. I thank God that I woke up to the harm that I was doing to myself and others. I realized that I didn't feel respect for myself or for anybody else. I slowly changed that by becoming more conscious of what I said. I am still working on mastering letting go of sarcastic thoughts.

I recognised neither of those ways of dealing with my rage until I discovered the 12-Step programs of Adult Children of Alcoholics and Al-Anon. Those two groups of people and the 12-Steps which were adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous taught me that everything begins with me to paraphrase Albert's third section of his article which says, "Start within you."

"Compassion begins from the heart" is the final section of Albert's article. Albert, this is one of those articles that you write so well that spoke to my heart and pulled these words of response out of me.

Compassion really does come from a heart that has learned to love---first and foremost, to love oneself. Real compassion enables you to release anger, hurt, and sometimes tears. Real compassion has no judgments against you or others. Real compassion allows you to see the other person or the circumstances as your teacher, not as someone who intentionally or even unintentionally hurt you. Real compassion allows you to connect with the oneness of all. It allows your inner light to reach out to others in love and kindness. Real compassion allows you to see all of the other person, warts and all, and allows you to choose to love that person anyway. It allows you to see the other person's pain. I know that my dad's rage came from the hurt and angry child that he was inside. I know that my mom carried a very frightened little girl inside of her. I know that, even with all of the spiritual growth that I have done in my life, I still carry around an angry little girl and a very frightened little girl inside of me. Neither one of them is as angry or as frightened as they used to be. They are both learning to play and be children. That is part of my healing journey. Want to go outside and play? These inner children are where some of my greatest moments of creativity come from.

No one can hurt me, unless I allow them to. Forced compassion isn't real compassion. Look at your reasons for pretending to offer compassion. If you want to be compassionate because the church or people expect you to, or because the Bible tells you that you should, none of that works. These reasons just give you more reasons to beat yourself up, to hate yourself, to call yourself all of the nasty names that your inner critic can think of. Hit the stop button on the remote control of your inner critic. Real compassion starts with being compassionate with yourself. Offer compassion to yourself and the love then will flow from your heart to others.

This article and Albert's article are just further lessons for me about compassion. When I was in India recently, Compassion was one of runes that I drew the most frequently in my daily reading from The Healing Runes. The rune of Compassion was my sign to be compassionate with myself and my own healing journey and to extend that compassion to all others that I came into contact with.

From The Healing Runes, written by Ralph H. Blum and Susan Loughan, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1997, page 116-117: "It has been said that when we have compassion for one another, we shall be of one mind. For in living a compassionate life, we are practicing the Presence of God in a simple and universal way. Drawing this Rune reminds us to take time to show compassion for those we meet on our healing journey." The reading goes on to say that we can show compassion through service.

The Rune says that you may be required at this time to recognise something that you have long denied and reminds you to have compassion for yourself as you face this challenge. In India, I came face to face with some of my grief and was able, through compassion for myself, to release the grief through the release of healing tears.

The Rune also says that a physical healing often comes about through compassion for yourself. On one side of Compassion is Fear. One the other side is The Divine. ". . .Fear, passing through the prism of Compassion, is transformed into the energy and radiance of Love." Look at the world around you through the eyes of Compassion.

Albert, thanks for the Link Love and the inspiration for this article. Albert's article can be found at http://www.urbanmonk.net/196/the-perils-of-forced-compassion-and-loving-kindness-part-1/

6 comments:

jen_chan, writer MemberSpeed.com said...

Greetings.

First of all, I'd like to say I admire you for being able to share with others your experience and your learnings. It really is a big deal and helps others understand even more. Compassion is not such a difficult concept but it's not something everyone has. We are all victims of judgment. Our first reaction is always defensive or judgmental. It takes a real courage and strength to be able to forgive someone truly and sincerely.

Patricia Singleton said...

Jen_Chan, thanks for your comment and words of encouragement.

Patricia Singleton said...

Lawrence Cheok at A Long, Long Road has been generous enough to allow other bloggers to post free links to their sites. This article has been one of those links found at http://lawrencecheok.com/188/a-christmas-gift-free-links-for-personal-development-bloggers.html

Check out Lawrence's site while you are there.

Patricia Singleton said...

This article has been accepted in the Carnival of Inspiration and Motivation: Fifth edition at POSITIVE AND SUCCESSFUL LIFE STYLE TIPS found at http://positivensuccess.blogspot.com/2008/01/carnival-of-inspiration-and-motivation.html

Jeff & Friends said...

the word compassion caught our interest even tho' this is one of your older postings. LOL, we are doing everything backwards.

We never really have had any problem loving someone else; forgiving someone else (except the parents some of the times) or with compassion towards animals and other living beings including human kinds.

It was ourselves we could not give these qualities to.

totally backwards (laughing some more; okay, maybe a bit odd and weird) ... but then again that's just us.
seems like we never do quite fit in someone's mold. not even our own.

But thanks for the links; we will be reading them. It is important to us to be learning these sort of things.

Patricia Singleton said...

Jeff, when I first started working on my incest issues, I hated myself. I had to work really hard to learn to love myself. Part of loving myself was having compassion for me, not just for others. Compassion and forgiveness both had to start with healing me. I am glad that you are here reading some of my older posts. I hope that my words do help you. Be gentle with yourself. Men can be gentle too.