"How am I supposed to live a life of JOY when sh** keeps bringing me down?"
(OUCH - one of my friends asked me that exact question not long ago. After several deaths in the family, problems with his wife, difficulty at work and his own scary health issues, he was just tired of life. It is a hard question to answer, and my first inclination was totally the WRONG way to go. So let me tell you what I first thought about saying, and then I will tell you what I ACTUALLY said to him.)
My First Inclination Was WRONG!
Well, I have to be honest and tell you that I used to be a "no-whiners" sort of person. I would not allow anyone to complain or tell me their story because MINE was worse. I could almost guarantee it was. And it was hard for me to find compassion for others when I felt like I was constantly getting kicked in the teeth.
I know what it is like to have SH** constantly flung at you by the monkeys in the zoo of life. My son and I have lived through some terrible things in life, and I taught him to be strong and to keep going no matter what. Before he was even born, I had been molested as a child, assaulted as a young woman and had my life threatened as an adult. After my son was born, life got even harder because he was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and was in the process of dying all the time. (He and I survived his childhood, even though he still has the same medical issues now.)
BUT...one of the most beautiful things about suffering is that it helps you develop compassion! And that is what happened to me.
The Better Way - LISTEN
So, even though my first inclination was to tell my friend to grow a pair and sack up - YES, I know it's crude, but we are really close friends and I could talk to him like that - what I really did was offer him some love and compassion.
Here is what I told him, "Man, that sucks. I know you are hurting and life just f***ing sucks for you right now. But I am here for you. Maybe I can help you and maybe I can't. But I can always listen. So, tell me what's going on."
LISTEN with your HEART
See, the beautiful truth is that EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE HEARD. And sometimes, the fact that you love someone enough to just sit and listen is enough.
When you listen with your HEART instead of your EARS, then you are showing the people in your life that you love them. Okay, so how do you do this? It takes practice, but here are a few basic tips:
- Stop your own inner dialogue.
- Do NOT formulate comments.
- Do NOT formulate a come-back response.
- Do NOT offer advice.
- Let them talk it out until they are done.
Once they are done with their story, then just give them all the love that you can. NO JUDGEMENTS, just LOVE. Once you start practicing this, you will find that your compassion and your love grows for the people around you. And the coolest bit is that your compassion and love for YOURSELF will grow, too.
This is truly the way of the spiritual healer, the lover of the world, the ones who want to make a difference. As you share love with others, your own self-love will grow, too.
It doesn't mean that I have the answers. NOPE. I'm still human and make plenty of judgements about people. I choose to work on my compassion all the time. I still have a no-whiners policy for myself and my son. But when a friend needs a little love and compassion, when they need me to listen with my heart, well, that is what they get! So the next time someone comes to you with a problem, just sit and listen. Not with your ears, but with love in your heart.
So, back to that original question that my friend asked me. "How am I supposed to live a life of joy when SH** keeps bringing me down?" It's a tough question, and I don't know the whole answer, but I know part of it.
Listen with your heart, give compassion and love to all, and hang on!