On Judging and Compassion
I was reading this morning in a novel of a fictional think tank, housed in an ancient German castle, where intellectuals and philosophers could go and consider the moral and ethical questions of life. The castle, transformed for modernity, was 5-star quality. If accepted, one spent 6 months there trying to further mankind’s understanding of his own nature, moral dilemmas, and life. What a luxury, such time and space and surroundings. I had the same feeling I had when I read Liz Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love (a book I adored, by the way) and thinking, “Who couldn’t get over heartbreak while being funded to travel the world and write?” At that time, I was sitting in my own tiny hovel trying to get over my own life-shattering, so I suppose there was some jealousy involved.
And yet, I am reading this novel about the castle, today, in my living room. (Though the temperature outside sits at -15 degrees and my furnace is on the blink.) I am typing this out in front of my fire (though under layers of blankets while wearing fingerless gloves). This, too, is luxury. It is not quite 6:00 a.m. My dog is lying at my feet chewing on a rawhide. There is no (or exceptionally miniscule) hardship in my pondering.
So I think about the elite: intellectual, social, economical. And I think about my clients who have battled life out in the midst of their ache and confusion, their addiction, their fear, their silence. I am thinking about what brings them into my office longing for respite and reform: a chance to tell the truth, to live honestly at last and still be able to LIVE; a desire to shed the shame, admit to being human, and move on into a future that is not so painful; an ability we share at every level of being. And admiring this real-life courage so very much.
And I am thinking about how we are with one another. How frightening it is to live with judgment. How we judge others harshly and are downright monstrous to ourselves. How the, “How dare you?” that we contemplate when we regard others becomes, “HOW DARE YOU? What is WRONG with you?” when we turn it on ourselves.
Which leads me to over and over to so much compassion and non-judgment. I can still remember the revelational thought, “why do I think it is okay to be so mean to myself? I would never treat anyone else this way.” Alongside, “why am I reacting so cruelly to their behavior? Are they not simply human?”
Compassion. Understanding. Non-judgment. Noticing our reactions. Watching them. Being curious about them. Allowing them to be…and to be transformed.
Imperfect people treating each other in imperfect ways.
We are human. We are fallible. All of us. We are.