One of the meditations we were asked to experiment with was one on forgiveness. It was a deeply personal and humbling experience. In summary, we were asked to reflect on three
At the conclusion of this meditation, I was reminded of a very powerful lesson: Everyone has harmed another, everyone has been harmed by another, and everyone harms themselves.
Why does this matter?
It’s an important reminder for compassion.
How many times have you been in a meeting or have had a conversation when you feel like someone just did you wrong? It probably happens on a daily basis. For most people, we are immediately triggered. Defensiveness, anger, and retaliation, all natural responses when we’ve been attacked in some way, blow up like balloons in our thoughts and emotions. Hopefully, we can catch them before they blow up and we’re shouting back.
What if we approached these moments differently? What if we simply paused, took a deep breath and remembered: Everyone has harmed another, everyone has been harmed by another, and everyone harms themselves.
Even though it doesn't excuse the person’s behavior and even though it doesn't address your feelings in the situation (there’s always time for that later), it does give us some time to remember that the person who has harmed you in that moment has very likely been harmed and has harmed themselves at some point in their life.
We can never quite know another’s experiences and the ways they have been hurt or even worse, traumatized. But we can be certain that they have been. Instead of fuming on the inside about what was just done to us, we could reach across the table and appreciate that the other person isn't likely to be inherently bad or intentionally mean. It may be a bad day. That person may never have had the opportunity to experience a healthy argument. Maybe someone at home just took their anger out on them before coming in to work. Besides, we’re no angels ourselves. We’re not always on our best behavior, so can we cut them some slack?
It’s a difficult task – to open ourselves to compassion when we’re being attacked, but could it be a first step to the next sequence of difficult conversations to be had - the ones where we stand up for ourselves and advocate for our needs. Maybe we can be that much more vulnerable and describe how the other person impacted us, opening an even wider door to forgiveness?
This will be my mindfulness goal during the upcoming week. What will be yours?