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Defining + Understanding Compassion

An Open Letter to Everyone Being Negative Around Me


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Via Toby Israel

To the ever-frowning, never-satisfied human beings surrounding me,

You know the term “foul mood” you always see used in literature? I never fully understood that term until I met you. Suddenly, it seems the most apt of descriptions.

Work is too slow? Foul mood. Work is too busy? Foul mood. It’s always too hot or too cold, or too early or too late. It’s never just right is it, Goldilocks? Whatever the complaint—bills, colds, kids, partners, lack of partners, help or lack of help—your response is always the same: foul mood.

But you see, this litany of grievances you call your life is of your own making. Wealth or poverty, sickness or health, employment or unemployment—these are states of being, existence or circumstance often beyond our control. Contentment and discontentment, though? Those are states of mind. You and you alone determine how you perceive your various and variable states of being.

You do not necessarily choose the circumstances of your life, but you do choose to view them negatively.

Don’t believe me? Think about today. Just today. How many times did you react to another person, friendly gesture or an event beyond anyone’s control with a scowl, frustration or anger? What if instead you had laughed, smiled or shrugged, and gone on with your day? It’s not impossible, really.

Your reaction to events depended entirely on you.

Now, to go a step further—think about how many good things happened in your life today? Did you succeed at something? Did someone give you a compliment or engage you in friendly conversation? Did you notice? What if, in addition to shrugging off disappointment and frustration, you had focused on those other moments of victory and positivity?

What if you changed the lens on your camera of perception? You might have found that all those moments of frustration could take on a softer hue, and that the good and the beautiful could stand out more boldly.

Maybe that seems crazy to you, because it is failure that drives you, not success. You channel all of your energy and attention into the failures of others, yourself, and the world, leaving little time to focus on the rest. You feed on criticism rather than appreciation. But humor me, and consider the possibility.

There are always things happening in other people’s lives of which we are unaware. Maybe my aggressive bus driver just received a troubling diagnosis or my grumpy neighbor is dealing with problems at home. The list of possible causes is endless. There are many, many legitimate reasons to have a bad day, or several. I acknowledge that and I think it is important to remember. But when every day is a bad day with only rare exceptions, you are exhausting that list—and my patience.

“Why should you care?” you ask. “If our state of mind is of our own making, and not dependent on circumstance, isn’t my negativity irrelevant to your contentment?” Yeah. It should be, but contentment is a tough practice, and I’m a beginner. It is really hard to maintain an optimistic, positive, compassionate outlook when I am surrounded by your bulls*** every day! That’s maybe the crux of it.

I also care about my fellow human beings, and I would like to see you achieve happier, healthier states of mind, but I probably wouldn’t be writing this if your actions and reactions were not directly impacting me. I have to be around you. I have to sit in the clouds of irritability emanating from your person. I have to listen to your unhelpful complaints, see your unwarranted scowls, and feel your negativity every day, and I would rather not.

Have I been doing exactly what I just called you out for? That is, have I been focusing on the negative? Yes. We’re all guilty of doing it. How about we end on a positive note, then…

We are alive. We are filled with the potential for joyous and inspired existence. We have this amazing capacity for empathy and compassion—two traits that allow us to build off of one another’s happiness.

So please, wipe the fog off your lens and take another look at your day. Maybe tomorrow we can start with a smile?

With love and joy.

Original article here.