March 8, 2016

The Greatest Gift We Can Give: An Unlikely Story of Compassion.

Luis Llerena/Unsplash

My story begins about 90 minutes before take-off to Florida.

I’m packed, rushing out of my apartment and I can’t find my keys. (I swear this is about compassion, bear with me.)

I scour the apartment—retracing and repeating my steps.

It’s small, and fairly organized-. How could I have lost my keys when I needed them to get in the door?! Time creeps past and I’m about 60 minutes from take-off, still at my apartment.

I decide it’s a lost cause, grab my spare car key and leave my apartment unlocked. I race to my boyfriend’s dad’s place to park my car and get a ride.

Fighting off tears of embarrassment and shame, my internal dialogue is screaming at me…

“How!? How could you lose your keys?! Why are you so disorganized? Who is ever going to take your advice (as I explore a new career as a life coach…), when you don’t even have your own shit together?! What will Connor think? his Dad? Everyone!? What type of person are you!?”

This is the opposite of compassion.

Compassion, defined, is recognizing someone in need, and the corresponding feeling of desire to reach out to help. When I wrap my head around the process, I like to say it’s not being afraid to shine your light on someone else.

Based on this definition, when I’m beating myself down, how bright is my light? How much of myself can I offer to the world? To anyone?

My own lack of compassion and negative self talk project out to the world a judgmental, negative version of me.

If I can’t forgive myself and accept my shortcomings—love all of me—how can I ever love all of someone else?

This got me thinking. What keeps me from practicing compassion? I’m naturally an empathetic human.

It turns out the culprit is my least favorite of motivators: fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not having enough of myself to give—of not having enough, period.

Fear of my gifts not being received. Fear of overstepping my bounds and, perhaps the greatest of these fears: fear of not being seen. Like, truly seen, as me.

It’s a terrifying world here in fear-land.

What I’ve realized is that fear, in my body, feels the same as excitement. And that excitement is this little light of hope that maybe I can do something to make this situation slightly less terrible. It starts with changing the tune in my head. And ends with projecting my joy, love, and light out into the world.

This is where I switched gears, and thought about my choices. I remembered that compassion is like a muscle. I can choose to flex it and love myself and believe in the gift I have to offer to the world. It’s the same gift we all have to offer—ourselves.

This brings me back to my story. I race to the counter (30 minutes to take-off), and realize my ID is in my boyfriend’s wallet—driving away. A quick call, and about five minutes later I’m running through the airport, barely making it to the gate.

As I exhale onto the plane, meandering to my seat, I see I’m situated literally surrounded by a family of six kids under the age of nine, one screaming child directly behind me, and a poopy, bouncy baby to my right. Oh, and chatty grandma to my left.

And all I can do is smile.

Using the compassion muscle takes you out of a victim mindset. As a victim, your circumstances and/or the people around you are out to get you and/or make your day inconvenient. Instead, with compassion we realize that everyone is just doing the best they can with what they’ve got.

I don’t mean to say that people don’t sometimes do sh*tty things. I’m just saying that they aren’t their actions—they just are.

So the next time we’re inclined to judge someone, or turn the other cheek when we know we have something to offer to a situation, maybe we could try this on for size.

Choose to recognize ourselves in that person or situation. See our common spark, our divinity. The one thing that connects us all is this human experience, and we’re all in this together.

I firmly believe the greatest gift we can give another human is to recognize their light and reflect it back to them—even if it’s just with a smile.

So let’s drop our preconceived notions about one another—the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and others. They are make-believe.

Let’s see things and people as they are: infinitely connected and perfectly divine.

If we could get our minds right and practice compassion towards both ourselves and the world around us…

Imagine the light! The strength! The hope! The community!

Believe, with every inch of your being, in your gift to the world. We are all gifts to each other—and together, we are whole.


Author: Stephanie Domrose

Apprentice Editor: Sylvia Boss; Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: Luis Llerena/Unsplash


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Stephanie Domrose