When we moved to Connecticut, my daughter Brittany was a freshman in high school. She was a competitive swimmer and joined the swim team. But one of the girls on the team named Lisa, told everyone to ignore Britt because she was the “new girl.”
At swim meets I had to endure the girls chant “Go Lisa! Go Lisa! Go Lisa!” while my daughter swam in the other lane to crickets. Even when in the car driving to club practice they decided not to speak with her. I wanted to choke them. How dare they hurt my daughter that way.
Can you remember a time when you felt angry towards someone?
Perhaps you judged them as I judged those girls. What effect did your judgment have on you? Did judging make you feel contracted and unhappy as it did me?
Now think of a time when you felt compassion for someone. Were you more in touch with who you really want to be?
Resentment, judgment and anger are soul crushers and not a state most of us want to walk around in. But when we find ourselves in such dark places, how do we come to the light? We can do that with the compassion question.
What is the compassion question?
It is a question that allows you to tap into the natural compassion within all of us. It’s phrased as “What happened to them?” If I had asked this about the girl who goaded the swim team into ignoring Britt, I would have said “What happened to that girl to have her behave that way?”
Eventually, I did discover an answer to that question
Lisa was the youngest of 11 kids and probably wasn’t getting the validation or attention she needed at home. Bullying Britt and “leading the girls” must have made her feel important. Had I known this back then, I would have felt compassion for her which would have led me to have more compassion towards Lisa. But I still would not have liked how my daughter was treated.
It’s rare that anyone who comes from a loving home in which their feelings are validated, and they are given appropriate choices (instead of being dominated) would treat another person badly.
Our work with incarcerated men provides a fascinating example of this idea
Morty was working with a man named Patrick who was in jail for beating his wife (and other women as well.) During the session Morty discovered that Patrick had the belief “If you do something wrong, you deserve to be punished,” and “The way to punish someone is to beat them.”
What led to these painful beliefs?
The way he was treated as a child. When he did something wrong, he was beaten and he was told he deserved it.
After these beliefs disappeared he told Morty that it never occurred to him there was another way of handling problems. He never wanted to hurt anyone but he felt compelled to hurt those who he felt had done wrong. And most importantly, he no longer felt that way.
Are criminals bad people or are they people who’ve learned bad lessons in life? When we ask “What must have happened for him to do that?” we often find that the bad behavior follows a pattern laid down years before.
When my kids were younger, our family went out to dinner one night. The waitress was rude. She practically threw the silverware at us. When the kids couldn’t decide what to order, she was audibly impatient.
I was about ready to bite her head off when Morty looked at her and with incredible compassion said,
“It looks like you’re not having a good day.”
She looked at him and started to cry. “My boyfriend just broke up with me and he had the nerve to do it on my break.”
Morty said, “I’m so sorry that happened to you. It must be very hard to have to go back to work.”
Next, she said, “I’m so sorry for the way I treated you.” For the rest of the meal, she could not have been kinder. She gave the kids a free dessert and I felt as if she could have chewed our food for us she would have.
Did Morty ask himself the compassion question?
I honestly don’t know. But I do know he assumed she was in pain instead of assuming she was a jerk. And that assumption made all the difference to that young woman.
So the next time you notice yourself judging another person, consider the question “What happened to them?” you may discover as I have that the judgment gives way to thoughtful compassion. And you may even be able to help the other person in some way.
How to eliminate 19 beliefs that limit confidence
Why are people afraid to do new things? Why do they sometimes feel like impostors? Why aren’t they able to just assume they will figure out how to make things work?
The answer is limiting beliefs. Specifically, self-beliefs.
When you have a limiting belief about yourself, it’s hard to escape. You are with your “self” all day long. But when you change a self-belief what happens? The invisible barrier in your way seems to vanish.
Announcing Natural Confidence: A way to eliminate self-doubt
The Natural Confidence program isn’t a rah, rah cheerleader saying “you can do it.” We know that kind of message doesn’t lead to lasting change. Instead, it helps you unlearn the beliefs that keep you from knowing that you’ll find a way to reach your goals and overcome problems. When that happens, you experience the freedom to act. You can get Natural Confidence here and see the many success stories from people who tried the program. Go to www.NaturalConfidenceProgram.com.