She was furious. He’d let her down again and made her look a fool. He’d not even had the decency to drop her a text or email to let her know. So she dashed off an email, telling him in no uncertain terms what she thought of him. That’ll show him.
He felt overwhelmed – it was a perfect storm. His Mum in hospital miles away; having to trek up and down the motorway, and then battle with the medical profession just to make sure she got basic care. The devastating news of his brother’s cancer diagnosis (can’t tell Mum, not when she’s like this). His own private hell dealing with depression (can’t tell anyone, I should be able to sort it, why am I so broken). Work piling up he simply hasn’t the energy to face, plates crashing. Stop the world, I want to get off, I’m letting everybody down, please let it all go away. And now, as if he didn’t already know what a failure he is, a blistering email from his colleague because he hadn’t returned a client’s call. Head full, guts cringing and churning, awash with emotion – shame, anger, despair, guilt. He feels alone and lost in an uncaring world.
What if she’d picked up the phone and been curious to first understand before leaping to judgement? It wouldn’t change the fact that he’d dropped her in it, but her fury may have transformed to compassion. Her perspective on what matters may have shifted. She would no longer be wasting energy with futile anger. It wasn’t his intention to let her down. He may have felt some comfort and reassurance; a little of the shame dissolving in the warmth of her compassion. And when the shame melts away, he’s left with more strength and energy to face what’s thrown at him.
What if he’d reached out for support, rather than avoiding and going within? What if he’d accepted the truth of the situation rather than wishing it go away; shown himself a little self-compassion rather than listen to his inner judge? It would not change the fact of his mother in hospital, or his brother’s diagnosis, or his own mental health challenges. But it would begin to lighten his load, and allow him to focus on what he can control, rather than get lost in what he can’t.
We could all use a little less judgement and a little more compassion, whether it’s with other people or ourselves. The harsh cycles of judgement and hurt escalate, making mountains out of molehills. Yet very few of us set out to hurt, or let down, or not care.
My little story happened for real this week between 2 people I know. They were both hurting in their separate worlds, for separate reasons. They both made assumptions about the other based on their behaviour. Neither could at first let go of their own perspective to see the impact they were having on the other. Neither were wrong, nor were they right. And all it took to quell the storm in the teacup between them, was a little curiosity, compassion and acceptance.
We all behave the way we do for a reason; let’s try to be curious and compassionate about what lies beneath, rather than assume and judge for what’s on the surface.