Sincerity. Empathy. Altruism. Forgiveness.
Despite being titled as rare, these qualities aren’t so distant. Each of us has an infinite reservoir of compassion and healing within us, should we choose to open our hearts to it.
I once subscribed to the idea that sharing love was like pouring and filling a glass of water. If someone swelled their cup into yours, you were fulfilled and joyful. At other times, a sense of emptiness and neglect might leave you one drop.
There is a lot to be said about the rule of reciprocity: that everyone deserves to be treated with as much respect and kindness as they give. However, we oftentimes obstruct ourselves from experiencing the ever-encompassing flood of compassion when we hold onto grudges, harmful expectations, and internalized pain.
More often than not, we assume love easily becomes exhaustive. It can drain you of energy, attention, time; or on the other hand, it can fill your glass with joy, assurance, and compassion. Either way, the fragile duality can seem like a never-ending cycle.
At points, I believed I didn’t have enough for myself because I was giving my love away to someone else. For years, I mistook this for truth. I’ve come to learn that when these moments of offering affection have felt draining, that perhaps it wasn’t love that I was actually bestowing. My own mindset, rather than the circumstances, has made me feel pain when I shouldn’t have to.
In reflection, my ego has been involved in each situation in which I felt cheated by what I thought was a shared fondness. I’ve learned we have a choice about how we react to certain events. Perhaps we’ve been conditioned to respond to a request for generous care with bitter exhaustion when it doesn’t seem equally reciprocated. Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean you have any less for yourself.
It wasn’t until I was 21 that I began to recognize the self-sabotaging flaws in my own narratives. Thoughts would steal my sleep. My stomach dropped at every resurfaced emotion. My mind would race at even just the idea of seeing someone again. At times, I was consumed by my pain, induced by past events I could no longer control and fueled by my addiction to the drama.
Until one afternoon at my favorite place in the world: a music festival, of course. I was blissed out after seeing Conner Youngblood perform; I had shared beautifully emotional moments with friends and strangers alike. The skyline was shimmering with the glow of a coming sunset, and for the first time in a long time, I felt fully present and serene with myself.
In this moment, my eyes locked with someone I had not seen in months. Someone that had betrayed me like no one prior; someone who I vowed I would aggressively confront if I ever was near them again. A person who was long overdue to carry the pain and outrage I had beared.
And yet, my spirit would not shake that newfound joy for anything– even for a vengeful moment I deserved. Without a thought or feeling, my fingers raised into a peace sign toward him, a symbol he returned. As I passed him, my friends and I basked in the glory of the stunning atmosphere around us, and we continued to dance onward without a fleeting focus to care.
Given any other context, I might have inadvertently caused more pain for myself and others, mistaking anger for empowerment. Reflecting on this moment revealed a lesson my subconscious had sought to teach me for so long: you already have a bottomless well of harmony within you that can heal any pain, grudge, or regret. It’s inherent in our beings, so long as we release our pride to tap into it.
I get a phone call from an old friend I haven’t spoken to in months and feel more refreshed from talking for hours than attending a party I once prioritized. An acquaintance asks for my help, and I drop everything to spend hours into the night for them. Someone with an unfavorable impression opens up and my heart softens. I gift a houseless person a donation, witness the gratitude in their eyes, and wonder how many times they’ve been told “no.”
Over the years, I’ve found myself in hospitals, attorney offices, educational facilities, talking to authorities of various backgrounds on behalf of a person at times I barely know. At the end of the day, none of this feels as draining as one might expect. In these moments, I experience a truly vast capacity for benevolence.
The name Taliesin Namkai-Meche stands out as an honorable example of this unwavering peace and humanity. In May 2017, Taliesin and Ricky Best lost their lives at the hands of a white supremacist while defending two Muslim women. Namkai-Meche’s last words reportedly were, “Tell everyone on this train I love them.” Even in his final moments, Taliesin was adamant in his belief that everybody deserves love and forgiveness, including those who act upon vicious malevolence. While love may not always stop evil in its tracks, ultimately, it’s always more powerful than hate.
Love is not just a noun, it’s a verb. You choose to love; you pursue love. Love does not exist without your dedication to it. Commit to genuine compassion, because when it is pure in its intentions, it will never hurt.
Commit to genuine compassion, because when it is pure in its intentions, it will never hurt.
And if it does, learn to recognize that there are inevitably detrimental influences tangled under the veil of affection. Your own ego creates the agony, your mind embraces the pain, even if the provocation is at the hands of another. When passion is tender, honest, and steadfast, forgiveness abundantly and gracefully heals all wounds. A thick shell can melt at even the softest touch, should we give it the chance.
While I express this with the discretion and acknowledgment that these qualities have been taken advantage of, I continue to wear my heart on my sleeve in the hope of inspiring similar generosity of spirit in others. Upon reflection, I’ve reached the realization that nothing can hurt me unless I allow it to. So if my compassion is taken for granted or worse, I can continue to trust that the seed I’ve planted in another’s heart may blossom one day into something purer and that my own garden is only more prosperous. At the same time, while your source may be limitless, that does not entail anyone unlimited access to it.
Perhaps our cups, with which we share our care and nourishment, aren’t the only channels of our love. I’ve come to revise that our capacities are limitless: when our glasses overflow, we upgrade to even larger containers– jugs, chalices, bottles. Our compassion should never be defined by the rim of a twelve ounce; we are so much more than that.
Expand your heart to newfound vessels and you’ll always feel abundant. After all, what good is my life if I do not create goodness with it?