Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.

I step in poop and learn my lesson

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I step in poop. With my bare foot.

I was at Margaret’s house. She is one of my best friends and needed to run some errands. She had asked me to watch her kids, Maya and Kiran, and their dog, Luna, a sweet Labrador Retriever. I know Luna has diarrhea, because I have already faithfully cleaned up after her three times.

But this one I don’t see coming. It is camouflaged on the carpet.

And even though I feel disgusted, shocked, unpleasantly surprised, I don’t have a tinge of anger, indignation, or resentment.

Why? Because I love Luna and I am convinced she loves me. Her pooping on the carpet has nothing to do with me, she has no ill-intent. She is just sick.

So I don’t take it personally.

I have compassion for her and her anguish. I want to support her. Not blame or shame her.

This makes me think how different life would be, if I would receive the words and actions of others as a reflection of where they are at, instead of a reflection of my self-worth, my lovability, my adequacy.

How would it be if I open my compassionate heart to their suffering?

The challenge, of course, is that I am not always convinced that they care about my experience.

That’s the hard part.

So I might do some work here. Something about seeing what I receive as a lack of caring as a failure of compassion. I might need some empathy, before I can see that they hurt enough to disconnect from their own core compassionate nature. That their behavior is “a tragic expression of unmet needs.”

I would become less defensive, less critical of their actions, less blaming them as a person. Instead I could try to understand and support.

When I don’t take actions personal, I am less triggered and better able to see the beautiful needs behind any behavior AND I am better able to speak up for my experience from a place of compassion.

And when I see the needs in the behavior, I can humanize the other person. I can see their needs as precious—even if I dislike the strategy they choose to meet those needs. When I see needs, behind behavior, I restore my groundedness in my own humanity. Instead of playing judge and rule who is right and who is wrong, I see and accept universal human needs. I see the precious truth within their action.

And when we see the truth of all needs, we can find a strategy that works for everyone: them and us.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping mission-driven professionals bring their lives into balance. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I'm currently in an ICF-coaching certification program. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

One thought on “I step in poop and learn my lesson

  1. Pingback: Compassion Without Empathy Can Be Harmful. I Learned First-hand. | Balance purpose, relationships, and self-care

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