This year was one where I was given the opportunity to dive into the world of compassion. Historically, I have related to myself as a fairly compassionate person. Until this year, that is, when I was presented with the daunting task of showing myself compassion. It wasn't until I was faced with a very real and intense situation that required me to choose one of two things: Beat myself up emotionally for my shortcomings until I eventually destroyed any trace of confidence or, show myself some compassion. Sounds like a no brainer, don't you think? How hard is it show yourself a little compassion? Easy right? It wasn't. There was a great deal of internal dialogue, arguments in my head - it was like watching a trial going on with lawyers presenting their arguments to a jury who would ultimately determine the fate of the person on trial (me). I immersed myself in the 'evidence' that justified the execution of ambition and creativity. I hopefully presented the case for understanding and the value of learning from mistakes. Back and forth, back and forth.
It wasn't until a colleague asked me a very powerful and simple question:
"Are you willing to forgive yourself and move forward?".
That question stopped me in my tracks. I hadn't realized that I wasn't being forgiving to myself or that it was even part of the process to be considered - it was like a surprise witness that shook the entire courtroom up. I remember, upon hearing the question and trying to figure out a feasible answer, taking a deep breath and pausing. I began to consider all that might happen if I wasn't willing to forgive myself - what good would I be? How would that impact the people I love, my colleagues? What lessons would my children learn from an unforgiving mother?
Perhaps it was the increased levels of oxygen to my brain that caused a shift. Maybe it was the question that made me pause just long enough to actually consider the impact of my behavior outside of my little self that inspired a new perspective. Whatever it was that caused the change, I realized something powerful: If I truly intended to give myself to others, I would first have to be willing to forgive myself.
This is where the compassion came in, for it was essential that I show myself at least a bit of compassion to allow for forgiveness. It was different from justification and explanation. There would have to be no strings attached, no caveats, no conditions. Just compassion.
What was invigorating was that once I started to take small steps to forgive myself, it became easier to accept what was going on around me. Instead of judging or being annoyed, I could simply observe and true to my purpose, I could wonder.
I am still here. For the time being I have mustered the strength to look at my shortcomings and instead of using them to destroy myself, attempt to use them as resources to explore, to learn, to share. It is, I will admit, a clumsy process but I am willing to forgive my awkwardness in hopes of sharing what is possible.
That invariably brings me wonder about something: I wonder what is available in collaboration when I am willing to forgive and create out of compassion.
For all of the 'unforgivable' things that might have happened this holiday season, I offer a tiny gem of compassion. You can take it, you deserve it. Should you see someone else who could use some compassion, I invite you to share it willingly.