Some people call it grit, others might think of it as pluck — but the ability to persevere in the face of adversity is a valuable characteristic to possess. Hard things are happening in the world every day, and the cause keeps pointing back to the rising rates of loneliness and isolation. It seems another critically vital characteristic to possess is compassion. But how do we tap into the power of compassion to reverse so much of what is wrong?
The Omega 13
Movies have had an impactful effect on our family. When we find a favorite, we watch it over and over, quote our favorite lines, and sometimes even learn from their stories.
One of our personal favorites is Galaxy Quest with Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver. The central conflict of the plot develops around a device, located in the nucleus of the ship, called the Omega 13. Unaware of its purpose or power some characters believe it can reverse time 13 seconds. But why only 13 seconds? It seems to short to make any difference when it comes to time travel, but just long enough to correct a wrong choice.
Of course, it is the end of the movie before our hypothesis is proven correct. Captain Jason Nesmith has evolved in his ability to acknowledge a mistake. The tension builds as the plot carries us toward the climax when he rushes to push the big red button, activating the Omega 13 and reversing time 13 seconds.
Pain or Regret
Have you ever wanted to push the rewind button? Was it an act or verbal offense you wished you could reverse and take back? Maybe you were on the receiving end and felt the sting of unkind words inflicted upon you. I’m not proud to admit I’ve had my fair share of putting the proverbial foot in mouth, but I’ve also been the recipient of cruel words.
Sixth grade was a tough year for me. It affected my self-esteem, confidence, and trust in other people. I remember the year as one of bullying, exclusion, and betrayal. Either as the bully or the one being bullied, there is pain involved. It may be we inflict pain on others because of the way we feel inside, or we are on the receiving end, and our feelings are the ones hurt. The question is — do we learn from what each extreme has to offer?
Do We Allow the Pain to Teach Us?
In another beloved book and movie, Wonder, the main character Augie is born with a condition mandibulofacial dysostosis, which is more commonly known as Treacher Collins Syndrome. As you can imagine — he is plagued with alienation and malicious acts.
There is a pivotal scene where Augie is upset about the rejection he feels from his classmates. He asks his mom a poignant question: “Will I always feel this way?” His mother’s response is priceless. Pointing to her body, she says: “this is the roadmap of our life.” She points to her heart and says “this is where we are heading. And this,” pointing to her face with its wrinkles and lines, “shows where we have been.”
If we allow it, our pain and rejection (where we’ve been), can affect our heart (where we’re heading). I believe my experiences have made me a more compassionate person. Not perfect, but still learning. My pain has taught me to be an “includer” instead of an “excluder.” I am more aware of someone observing from the outside looking in. When my own children’s experiences eclipsed those of my childhood, I’ve felt empathy as I’ve held them close and wished the pain away.
Through the years, I’ve learned to practice being mindful and compassionate in how I include. I’ve worked to forgive and seek forgiveness. And I’ve learned that “excluding” creates more suffering and “including” promotes healing.
Regardless of how anyone treats you, you stand to benefit. While some people teach you who you do want to be, others teach you who you don’t want to be. And it’s the people who teach you who you don’t want to be that provide some of the most lasting and memorable lessons on social graces, human dignity, and the importance of acting with integrity. — Kari Kampakis
What’s in it for Me?
It is true; some people are born more compassionate than others. But if we feel we’re missing a tender side to our DNA, it’s good to know we can cultivate a more empathetic character by practicing kindness regularly.
A study conducted by David DeSteno for Harvard Business Review shows the benefits of cultivating a compassionate character extends beyond the recipient. “People who feel compassion are willing to persevere more than 30% longer on challenging tasks compared to those feeling other positive emotions, such as happiness.” Learning and feeling empathy and compassion not only improve our ability to perform and be present but also increases satisfaction and decrease exhaustion.
Are we Teaching our Kids to Remember?
Remember is probably one of the most important words in the English language. Progress begins when we remember. I had someone break down the meaning, and it has brought me a new perspective.
Member, as defined in medical dictionaries, is a distinct body part or limb. To dis-member something would be to deprive, divide, or reduce. Satan’s greatest plan is to dis-member to the point we no longer feel hope or light. As it’s opposite, re-member means to put back together, to recall, or retain.
Remembering is not holding a grudge for a wrong against us. It is remembering what we learned, it is about healing, and becoming a stronger and better person. As we model empathy and compassion to our children, we teach the basic principles of a strong and noble character.
When they come home broken-hearted because of a mean kid at school, you can guide them as they navigate their feelings. Support their efforts to put the broken back together to heal. Help them bookmark their emotions for a time in the future. Because someday they will be faced with a decision about “including” or “excluding.” We can help them learn what it means to remember.
Our perspective today is different from yesterday because of the lessons life has taught us. There is untapped power in remembering our regret and pain. Do we allow compassion to correct what is wrong? Rather than responding to pain with more pain, wouldn’t it be a better world if we responded with kindness?
I’d love to hear how you have you used past pain to feel more compassion today. Please share your experiences in the comments below.
This article was originally published on Choosingwisdom.org