Today, I want to tell you a story today of failure and compassion.
Sometimes in life we get things right and other times we blow it. No one is immune to this. I used to think this was absolutely the worst thing on the planet- I hated to fail. I wanted to hide from it. Not tell anyone. For a very long time I thought that if other people say my failure, they would judge me.
I have learned, however, that people will judge you with or without failure.
It seems that everyone has an opinion.
I know because I tend to be that person. I tend to wrap people up in a nice little bow and see them from that lens. I judge them. I place labels. It’s easier really – to be quick and cheap with our judgements.
It requires minimal effort and a simple observation. We see something that we do not like so we decide that this external behavior makes up the whole of a person. This is where judgement lives.
I want to give an example of what I mean…
Let’s say I observe someone tell a lie. My quick and easy response to this is to ASSUME this person is liar – to attached lying to the whole sum of this person. Based on this assumption, I spend no time getting to know them. I do not trust anything they say. AND I probably tell other people about their “lying” problem.
This is easy – it requires no effort on my part. BUT the problem with this tactic is that I fail to see that humans are far more complex than that. We cannot just simple observe good or bad behavior and place labels accordingly.
NOW what I am not saying is that lying is ok because it is not. BUT, rather, the why behind someone’s behavior is FAR more important than the actually external behavior we see. AND even more importantly by attaching a label of “liar” onto this person I have not given them any opportunity to show up differently.
They are just a liar plain and simple, but the truth is something far more complex is often going on. Maybe this person is ALSO afraid of failure, so they lie to make it seem like they have all their crap together.
But since I did not spend any time in getting to know them I lost the opportunity to show compassion. If they really struggle with fearing failure – we HAVE a lot in common.
I think a lot about this concept when it comes to situations like Mark and Jane. What I experienced was real – I told my truth. BUT I also recognize that I do not know the why. Trust me, I tried to get to the root of it, but it just did not work out that way. While I was dealing with external behaviors the heart of the matter was missed – on both sides if I am being honest.
AND I think this is often where most of our conflicts happen – we rarely sift to the bottom. We just deal with external behaviors – place labels and move on. It is really a lot easier. It saves time. Its saves heartache. It saves us from having to be vulnerable with one another.
I have lived my life in this space a lot. It was not until recently that I came face to face with the truth that I was judgmental. I lacked compassion for people. I observed external behavior and decided quickly if people were good or bad.
I am sure I have missed opportunities along the way to love people well and get to know them.
One such time happened a few years ago after we left Mark’s church. (If you want to know more about the story, here is a great starting point. https://stringingwords.com/2020/01/15/dear-reader/ )
I had signed up to be a board member on a local junior football league that my son played on. The league was in DISARRAY and I love solving problems. AND the list of problems was LONG and difficult.
We started with absolutely NO money because the president who ran the organization before SEEMED to have run off with it. What she actually did is still somewhat of a mystery. Although, I can tell you the previous bank account activity was certainly suspect.
The new president coming in had been placed there by the former president. SO, I need you know to I already questioned her – I came into this situation with assumptions about the new president simply because the old one placed her there.
I also came loaded with my own leadership issues. I distrusted leaders. I assumed that I would have to hustle for my worth with them. I also made the assumption that I was a better leader.
Gosh, typing that stung. What an awful assumption.
And all of this was a recipe for disaster. Her and I just did not get along because I was always observing her my lens. I viewed what she did as a direct threat to me because I was NOT about to be hurt by another leader.
All of this came to a head toward the end of the season. I was the treasurer and we had voted to purchase a trailer that would hold all our concession items and general equipment. It felt like a huge win given the money situation we had walked into.
The Sunday after voting to purchase a trailer, one became available that fit our needs. The vice president had found it and he was going to take a peek at it. I was under the impression that it was not being purchased just checked out.
Later that evening I found out that the president had written a check and it was purchased.
I lost it.
Like LITERALLY lost my crap.
I felt blindsided. I felt like they had gone behind my back and purchased the trailer. I was the treasurer after all.
I want you to know that this poor president GOT my wrath. ALL the wrath. EVERY ounce of what had been built up inside of me came out. I even went as so far to try and fire her from her position. It was heated and I was mean.
And a few days later I resigned as the treasurer. I had concluded I could not stay in that environment.
Yet, what I failed to see is that my response to her WAS so much less about her and more about me. I had walked in preloaded with the idea that the leader was going to hurt me. It was my way of protecting myself. I had to. I did not want another “Mark” situation.
I also did not take the time to get know her. I did not ask deep questions about her life and show her compassion when she needed it.
THIS was all a recipe for disaster. To this day, I still feel awful for how I responded to her. IT was NOT kind nor helpful. I had the opportunity to ask her questions and share why this bothered me – instead, I just got mad and lost my cool.
But this also gave me the opportunity to step back and reflect – why had I lost it? Why was this such a big deal to me? What could I learn from this?
In asking myself these hard questions I learned that I still had healing to do from previous situations. I also observed how I allowed my preconceived judgements to shape how I interacted with people. THIS was not helpful.
BUT mostly, I saw how I lacked compassion. My own hurt would not allow it. AND I think this is the bedrock for most of our judgements – we do not want to be hurt. So, we place neat walls up to protect ourselves from people.
NOW, I am not suggesting that we fail to have appropriate boundaries with toxic people. Boundaries can be healthy and good when exercised the right way. I am just saying let’s be sure someone is TRULY toxic (for us) before we do.
I am also suggesting that we could all do a little better in this world if we came loaded with compassion for one another person instead of judgement. Compassion takes time. It also requires us to come out from behind our “walls” and see something from another person’s point of view. This is not always easy. It is not usually quick BUT so worth it in the end.
I owed compassion to the president of our football league and I did not give that. Yet, even in this moment I learned a great deal. AND I think that is how I can extend myself compassion – recognizing this situation for what it is and learning. I did not get it right but that is ok.
I also do not need to place a label on myself from this experience. I am not an uncompassionate person. I just had a uncompassionate moment for reasons that went beyond the external behavior that I was displaying.
This is important to remember – compassion usually starts with us. With our ability to be ok with making a mistake, sharing those things and learning.
Life is messy and confusing sometimes BUT I think we would find that we share a lot more in common. We just need to be brave enough to move toward people instead of away because THIS is the place where compassion lives – in drawing near.
I know I learned that from this experience. I pray you find the courage to do the same.
Until next time friends,