Lessons in Compassion: #3

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As I shared in two previous posts, “one of the many things that has been good about this experience with fatigue is that it has offered me several  ‘lessons in compassion,’ or as I prefer to call them, opportunities to grow in compassion!  🙂  As hard as I have tried over the years, as we all do, to be compassionate, to not judge, to be understanding of others who may do, say, believe, etc., differently than I do, I, of course, have not been able to do that always, in all circumstances, with every person!  I’m quite sure, in fact, that I’m nowhere near as good at it as I’d like to think I am!  Not only has this experience with fatigue proven that to me, but it has, kindly, given me opportunities to improve….  :)”

Lesson #1 had to do with people who have a hard time going to sleep, whether when they first lie down or after waking up in the middle of the night.  Contrary to my previous way of thinking, there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will for anyone, if only he/she would try hard enough or do it right….!!

Lesson #2 had to do with people who are natural introverts, and my tremendously increased understanding of what it’s like to live as an introvert, particularly in our more predominantly extrovert-driven culture.

Lesson #3 has to do with the seemingly innate tendency we humans have to pass judgment on others!!  Whether for good or for bad, both with people we know and love and with those who are strangers to us, in all places and times and circumstances, we judge.  As if we know.  As if we know the whole story.  As if we know the whole person.  As if we know what is right for every person, in every circumstance, at any moment!  As if we were–dare I suggest it?–God….

Well…I have been reminded, yet again, that we’re not!  We don’t know!  We really don’t.  And I have my friend persistent fatigue, and its invisibility, to thank.  🙂  On multiple occasions throughout the past several months, it has occurred to me–as I’ve been visiting with a friend, for example–that to that person, in those moments of our visit, I probably seem, by all outward appearances, to be fine!  If that person–or someone who saw me at the grocery store, or someone who saw me out walking with my friend and my dog, or someone who saw me in almost any circumstance away from the private moments in my own home or with my closest friends when I “let my hair down” and expressed my real level of fatigue–if “that person” didn’t know about the fatigue, they might not notice anything terribly different about me.  Perhaps a slight decrease in my historical perkiness(?!), but generally, not a hugely noticeable change.  And that person, I could imagine, might wonder why I’m not doing more?…why I’m not volunteering to be a chaperone on the 2nd grade field trip?…why I’m not back teaching the Sunday School class I began teaching in August?…why I’m not having her child over to play like I used to?…why I’m not calling and wanting to get together like I used to?……. because “that person” cannot see the whole picture!

“That person” can’t see the tiredness that never really goes away, and gets worse after interacting with others….  “That person” doesn’t see my limited energy stores, or see my need to conserve that limited energy for my family first and foremost….  “That person,” perhaps, is puzzled by the disconnect–“Well, I saw Deb out and about, and I even talked with her–and she seemed fine….Why isn’t she (fill-in-the-blank)??  Is she making this stuff up??”  “That person” just does not, and cannot, and should not expect–or be expected–to see the whole picture, know the whole story, understand the whole person (which in this case, is me!).

But “that person” can, and does, make judgments.  “That person” can and does assume he/she does see the whole picture and know the whole story and understand the whole person…and, therefore, know what should be done.  That is what we do.  Or at least, that is what I have done!  I will not speak for anyone but myself.  I have made those assumptions, time after time after time, assuming that I was seeing and knowing and understanding it all (or at least enough!)…and, therefore, was perfectly justified in knowing exactly what that other person should–or should not–be doing.  Really???

But I am going to try really, really hard not to do that any more.  Really hard.  Because I’ve been reminded.  I’ve been reminded of how easy it can be to make judgments.  I’ve been reminded of how right-on those judgments can seem.  And I’ve been reminded of how wrong those judgments can be!  I’ve been reminded of how little of what is really going on inside a person is necessarily revealed on the outside of that person.  And I’ve been reminded of the times–the many, many, too-many times–that I have been the one making those judgments.  I’ve been reminded.

And not only that, but I have also come to the point of realizing that on a good day, when my mind is clear, my heart is focused, and my soul is grounded, I might have a good inkling about what is right, for myself, in one particular moment, in one specific context.  But even then, there’s no guarantee!!  It may not seem like it was the right thing by the next day (sometimes even the next moment!).  It may not seem like it was the right thing as I try to explain my decision to my husband or best friend.  It may not seem like it was the right thing when I hear about what someone else did.  It may not have even been the Right Thing!!  But I have to believe that it was the best thing, for me, in that moment, with what I knew and had experienced and believed and felt.  And that’s on a good day!!  🙂  How could I possibly presume to know what is right for anyone else??  And yet I have….

I’ve been reminded.

Thank you, friend fatigue, for this opportunity to grow in compassion.  May it stick!!  🙂

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