Monday, October 21, 2013

My Biggest Fear

Sometimes people disappoint.

They have their reasons, of course. We live in a world shaped by emotional turmoil and uncertainty. It's a reactionary world and it can make us unforgiving, ungrateful, and embittered. It becomes easy to quit people, to build walls around steadily shrinking hearts, and to inflict our pain upon others without discrimination. We forget that people deserve dignity and that kindness isn't a commodity to be bargained for (or an act made with the expectation of return).

Carl Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” In other words, every impatience, every painful infliction from the outside, is a mirror offering us an opportunity.

When I consider this quote, I realize that what he’s talking about is empathy – the ability to relate to the pain we encounter, to its origin. Because if we look deep enough, if we can dig down into that pit of compassion we all carry, we can confront our own souls with honesty.

It isn't always easy. Compassion, empathy and patience are all acts of practice. They take time to master; each must be a conscious choice, not only reserved for those closest to us but applied to the briefest of interactions. Only in this can we learn what it means to love unconditionally, to cure the pain we see in the world - a pain once inflicted upon and by us.

As I left Ghana, left my position as a volunteer trained in cultural understanding and mindfulness, I feared that I would somehow lose that; that, in a world where Twitter, Instagram and the instant gratification of Facebook exists, my compassion would fall short of the life I once knew. I wanted to reflect on my time as a volunteer without idolizing the third world or damning the first. I wanted to change problems I saw through my understanding of them, not my disgust. Because, I thought, if I couldn't use my third world experiences in the first world, 'my' world, than I obviously hadn't spent them well ...

The world I see today is seriously lacking in empathy and patience. And if you’re looking to do some good, take a moment to look into a mirror - whether it be a he or a she, a Christian or a Muslim, recklessly angry or smiling like a child watching bubbles float into the sky – forgive them, forget yourself for a minute, and remember that they might actually need your love more than you know (and that giving your love is never a sign of weakness). 

Make the world more beautiful. Make your experiences count.