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“Human it is to have compassion on the unhappy.”
Giovanni Boccaccio

Use your imagination a bit and compassion looks like “come to passion.”

It’s a good reminder since sometimes when I get too close to pain, I slip from compassion to control. The reason this happens? I’m terrified of pain.

I want to fix whatever is wrong, to stop others from hurting. My eagerness to make everything better leads to offering solutions, usually too many.

When hurting friends don’t take my advice, I get uncomfortable and back away.

It was never so obvious as when a friend’s son died several years ago. Slowly I drifted farther from our relationship. I had a lot going on myself, so I justified the distance. However, I was painfully aware I felt incapable of being around her pain.

I thought back, wondering where the discomfort originated. When my aunt’s mother died, I was four years old. I sat in the bed where she spent most of her days crying.

“I’ll never be happy again,” she said.

I told her she would, but she said no.

She looked so sad. I tried to brighten her gloomy mood by giving her attention, telling funny stories, and chattering. None were enough. I wanted to run away, but Mom said I had to stay. I was the only family member my aunt recognized, the result of being in shock, so it was my job to comfort her, but I failed.

Which brings to mind why relationships are so complicated. Their pain entangles with our pain. Their feelings jog our memories and give rise to our feelings. Reactions create chain reactions.

The best I can do sometimes is to let both of us feel whatever we’re feeling, sometimes at a distance.

To determine what we have to offer, we can check in with ourselves: Can I allow my friend to feel without trying to fix him/her? If not, what is the most loving way to respect each other’s feelings? If it’s space, what’s the most compassionate way to give it?

Write wHere I’m supposed to be – It’s okay to not show up for everyone. Sometimes we need our own compassion.

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