12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
I was first confronted with this stark reality shortly after my father married my stepmother. During one of our many talks she shared with me that I lacked compassion. Because I didn’t like what she, being the messenger, had to say, I attempted to ignore it and go on about my life. Besides, I didn’t quite understand the concept…
Be more caring?
Was this my stepmom’s way of saying I needed to be nicer to her and others?
Is she calling me mean?
I’m not a bad person!
This went on for years…I’ve always been careful to maintain a guarded, fiercely-protective mentality regarding things that I care about. If someone’s agenda does not align with me and what I have going on, I am quick to reject it-I do not see how it is relevant to my life. I’ve never been one to apologize for this dismissive attitude. It’s how I’ve managed to thrive, living with the motto, “no one gets a second chance.” Furthermore, this mentality has also made it difficult for me to give props when props are due. Too often I may see a woman rocking an amazing hairstyle, read a well-written article or see an event/organization develop exceptionally well and never give one complimentary word of sincere acknowledgement (“Good job!” doesn’t count).
That is a problem.
Now that I’m older, I finally understand what my stepmother tried to tell me SO many years ago and that others have elaborated on in many other ways since. I remember when I was pledging my sorority, the chapter members’ biggest gripe with me was that I was “selfish.” I would be so offended because I would think about all the things I had done (and was doing) for close family members and how much I supported close friends and think, “These chicks don’t really know me if they can sit there and call me that.”
But now I get it.
Showing compassion is SO much bigger than me and my selfish interests. True compassion extends to all of mankind and its resources. It means that when I absent-mindedly ask someone, “How is your day going?” I need to really listen to them when they respond. It means when a friend is really going through some deep emotional things that I not focus on how those things are negatively affecting our friendship-because it’s not about me. It means that it’s not enough to “say” I care, I must show it as well.
Ultimately, it’s taken me this long to learn if it’s not my way, there will be no highway. “My” way must be changed to the “best” way. This little epiphany of sorts that I’ve been focusing on is not complete and has been quite humbling. I still have some time to go. But I can say that I am further along in this positive change than I was yesterday.