My siblings and I were raised to be considerate of other people. Our dad was adamant, chiding us in supermarkets, if we were blocking the aisle, “Step out of the way!” “Move!”. At the dinner table a guest should never have to ask for anything. We were trained to be on the lookout for anything missing from their plate. That’s what I learned.
One day, years later, I saw a huddle of women at the bottom of the escalator I was riding. Normally, I wouldn’t say boo if somebody stepped on my foot! But seeing them blocking the way, all yakking and squawking, my childhood training rose up and flew out of my mouth with a sarcastic “Great place for a meeting!” (oh I sure told them!). One woman looked up at me and said, with great distress, “She’s stuck.” They were all trying to free the poor dear who had somehow gotten her sleeve caught in the running handrail. Did I feel like a creep? Oh yeh!
Shame, Love and Compassion
Recently I’ve seen some FB postings resorting to shaming. The people doing the shaming have been angry and frightened, by some senseless act they have been witness to and obviously feel justified in pointing that fiery finger of shame. God knows, I’ve been pissed with dimwit drivers cutting me off or lamebrains blocking the aisle. But hold on a minute! What do I know? I’ve BEEN the dimwit driver too! Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep that night. Maybe I was rushing to meet my friend at the hospital. Maybe I had a moment of poor judgment, just didn’t read the traffic right. Throw her in the stockades! That’ll teach her!
Seeing that shaming disturbed me. Because it really is at the far end of the spectrum from love and compassion. We can’t know for sure what’s gong on with another person. If they’re having a heart attack, or just heard their best friend was killed or their house is on fire or their sleeve is caught in the escalator… we can’t know. Maybe we can help. Maybe our first concern could be that they are alright. If there is nothing we can do, there is love. We can look upon any situation with compassion and know that, in itself, offers creative energy into the situation.
It’s not always the easiest recourse. Flipping the bird might come a lot easier. But the most effective, I am learning, is to be the gracious one, kind and generous of heart. Love will uplift any situation. Shame will keep it in the pits. And, if only for your own blood pressure’s sake, looking upon others with love is definitely the most creative option.
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