Using Compass/ion and Com(passion)
Have you ever noticed that compassion’s root word is “compass?” A compass is used to find direction. In the Latin com is together and passus is a step.
Brennan Manning once said that compassion is a guttural turning in recognition of someone’s pain. Webster describes it as fellow-feeling and inclined to pity or mercy. What would happen if we really did this for ourselves?
Those who have compassion are “healthier, happier, more popular, and more successful at work,” writes Dan Harris in his book, 10% Happier. Compassionate people are also better at dealing with stress, and research indicates that kindness and cooperation are evolutionarily the smart way to go. Plus, there is, as Harris explains, a “virtuous cycle”: If you have more compassion and less anger, you’ll make better decisions, and be 10 percent happier in turn.
When I read Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, he said to be an expert at anything one needs to anticipate logging ten thousand hours at it. Yep. 10k. As an example, he says that professional hockey players will have 10,000 hours on the ice before playing one professional hockey game. I will become more compassionate, and have a finely tuned compass that guides me into places with people that changes the brain, the pain, the pursuit and point of our lives.
The fun part is that there is a lot of control in this process. Because the compass/ion-com(passion) I live out starts with developing it for me. It’s not very Christian-y to say it. I can’t do a Christian self-forgetting argument here. Compassion-building starts with me, but as you will see it has nothing to do with self-indulgence, denial, or thwarting another individual. Instead it is at is a lifelong labor of love, like parenting or marriage. It’s about obtaining mastery so that I can Stand and Deliver on God’s purpose for me, believing I am worthy.
How to get started
on those 10,000 hours.
You have to have passion for it like you do when you meet the love of your life.
Or learn how to do something really well. Write down your reasons for developing this skill. Who will benefit? How will it help with other goals and dreams in your life? What will developing your compass and compassion do for your recovery from sexual trauma? Post this on your mirror, your dashboard, your work desk; write it on your hand.
Feel Gratitude with Discernment.
When you get out of bed, feel your feet on the floor and start with thank you. Thank you that my feet work. Thank you for that the floor is here. Thank you for gravity. This is real stuff and it would be greatly missed if it weren’t working, right? If you can write, this down. The brain loves seeing your handwriting on a piece of paper (studies prove this) Gratefulness makes your fearless. It makes you trust life. And reminds you that you have what you need, you have enough, and you know it. BUT—it isn’t healthy to be grateful to someone who isn’t treating you well. Instead, we can have compassion for that person within boundaries that protect you from the toxic wrong that person produces.
I get how disconnected this advice may feel from the point I just made. However, for serious issues we need to remember that anger is a threshold emotion that motivates you to move from one place to another. It promotes change . Compassion drove Jesus to whip and flip. Truly, he consciously and painstaking tied a whip together and went after the merchants who were cheating the poor. He flipped over tables with enormous amounts of coins on them, and all the money that was connived out of those who hardly had it to spare scattered everywhere.
Retreat into Prayer.
Our Father, who is in heaven, Holy is your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give me this day my daily bread. Forgive me my wrongdoing as I forgive others’ wrongdoing towards me. Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power the glory forever. Amen.
(I understand that in Christian Orthodox monks will pray this 5 times in a row. It’s meditative prayer.)
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace.
Help me in all things to rely upon Your Holy Will.
In every hour of the day, reveal Your will to me.
Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all.
In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others.
Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You, Yourself in me. Amen.
Make a “Record of Rights.”
This one is my favorite. This is active note keeping of all of the things you do really well. This is looking not only looking on the bright side is about building credibility with yourself: I chose to leave the party; I drank less than I normally would have; I didn’t call back a friend who I know typically uses me; I saved more money this year; I paid off my credit card this month; I learned how to fix my oven; I reached out to an old friend; I managed my time well this weekend and completed most of the big to do’s; I remembered by friend’s birthday on time this year. I tell you, when you start noting this in a journal, you can’t help but be impressed. The deal is your brain can’t think something demoralizing and shameful and something complimentary about you at the same time. When it is exercised to notice the amazing things you do, it starts to believe that you are amazing. Thus, rather than your brain fighting your growth, it joins your growth. Yes, through compassion your brain will join you. . .and growing becomes so much easier.
Consider reading this blog one hour of those 10,000 hours (yes, I have compass(ion) for you) of compassion building that helps you Stand and Deliver for yourself. When we build that muscle to call on God for a way to have compassion for ourselves, we step into a new place of knowing that we are here for so much more than what we have been through.
You are loved (com/passionately). Thank you for reading.
Mary Ellen Mann is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Denver (visit www.manncounselinggroup.com). After attending a Christian college, she did her graduate work at Columbia University. Recently she co-founded Last Battle, LLC and helped develop the first interactive website for survivors of sexual violation, www.lastbattle.org, to help survivors, family and friends of survivors, Christian leaders, and professionals who care about this population. Her book, From Pain to Power will be on the market September 22, 2015. Mary Ellen lives in Denver with her husband and their two sons.