The Continued Relevance of Compassion

This has been quite a week.

I made the choice to leave ADF. I handed over the Fellowship to an amazing person, Kristin McFarland. I left home for Los Angeles to meet Cher and write songs with a bunch of starry-eyed kids.

It’s been surreal.

Then, at the end of the week, after rushing to put together the most meaningful Solstice piece I could for HuffPost Religion, I got hit with a damning comment and it all fell to pieces. One little comment was all it took to make me feel small, and profoundly vulnerable.

I’d just written these words:

“I hold up to the sun the challenges I face in my own life; my uncertainty, my doubt, my fear, my insecurity, my righteousness, my judgment, and my shame. All those parts of me which have remained unexamined, undesired or unwanted, I hold them up to the sun.”

Then, almost immediately after the post went life, these words appeared:

 HuffPost Comment

I read this comment and I nearly forgot about the sun altogether, and the Solstice, and my sense of centeredness. All of those challenges I wrote about were staring me straight in the face, and I had a choice to make.

Was I going to offer this up to the sun, to the gods of my heart, or to that magnanimous mystery that a friend of mine calls the Is-ness? Was I going to allow this be transformed?


I didn’t do that.

I turned to Facebook.

I asked my friends to flag this comment as abusive in order that it be taken down by the HuffPost comment police. They complied, and the comment was removed.

But I think I might have missed an opportunity here.

This voice, spouting this ALL CAPS ANGER in my direction, could have served as a teacher for me, if I’d have given her the chance. Not a teacher of theology, or of religion, or of the “real”, “right” way of doing things; no, a teacher in how to practice compassion toward even the most mean-spirited person.

I had a chance to practice what it feels like to stand in my center, to remember who I am, and to respond with kindness.

But I didn’t do that.

Broken Glass

I’m not mad at myself for tattling on this commenter. Being mad wouldn’t serve much good. I just recognize that I have some more work to do. It’s easy to practice your kindness-speak on an audience of comrades. People thrust forward their Likes and RT’s, and you get to feeling pretty good about yourself.

The real test on whether your message is legit comes when you’re forced to stand before someone who doesn’t give a damn about you.

What then? Who will you be in that moment?

I keep coming back to this sense that forgiveness is important. Crucial. I hear this voice in my head that says,

“Forgive yourself. Just forgive yourself.”

Funny that it isn’t saying to forgive the other person, isn’t it?

Forgiving myself allowed me to forgive her. Once forgiveness starts, it spreads. Now I’m no longer angry at bazooms22. I don’t feel affected anymore.

I remember where my center is.

Then, unexpectedly, a feeling of gratitude starts bubbling up.

I’m kind of glad this person was an asshole. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to respond like a child, because it reminded me of the ways in which I am still very much a child. The fear, insecurity, and shame that exists in me is the same that exists in her, too. She held up a mirror and said, this is what fear looks like.

I felt the fear, then I let it move me to action, initiating a series of events which led me back around to around center.

It was a gift, really.

Sometimes we get lifted up and celebrated, and I don’t think those are the times when we are offered the greatest lessons. It’s when we’re humbled by the world that we are reminded of the things that really matter:

Our own capacity to forgive.

The meaning of fortitude of spirit.

The continued relevance of compassion.



9 responses to “The Continued Relevance of Compassion”

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  2. Danette Avatar

    My aunt likes to say that there are basically two emotions, fear and love. When I’m afraid, I’m rarely thinking at all, but only reacting out of the emotion, sometimes without consciousness. Stopping and thinking, trying to imagine where the other person is coming from, what fear is driving them, is what allows me to come out of my fear and embrace compassion, which to me is the very essence of love.

    As a person interested in spiritual development, my goal is to get to a place where my first, unthinking reaction is always love instead of fear.

  3. seanmichaelmorris Avatar

    Gotta chime in here, love. As a teacher, and learner advocate, I think it’s as important to recognize teaching moments as it is to be compassionate. The commenter on the HuffPost article was not only intolerant and (if you’ll forgive me) sloppy in his/her remark, but s/he was uninformed; and I think it’s clear that s/he was also uninterested in dialogue with you. As such, s/he neglected the basic sensibility of blog commenting, which is to engage in dialogue. Silencing that voice is, to be perfectly frank, a pedagogical move. When someone raises his hand in class and tells you what you’re wearing is ugly, the appropriate response is not to see that person’s point of view, it is to make clear that his remark is not germane to the discussion. A silent, blinking stare conveys — and teaches — a great deal.

    Now whether you approached your decision from a place of fear or from a perspective like I describe above is all yours to know and work with. But you should not feel badly for not engaging that person, or for rallying the troops to your side. Inappropriate action can be met with passive resistance, which is what you did. This was everyone sitting down together in protest of the Internet troll.

    Trolls will be trolls. There’s little use in engaging them because it’s not engagement they seek. Pesky creatures, they.

    1. Cat C-B Avatar
      Cat C-B

      Yep. You don’t have to forgo compassion in order to avoid normalizing inappropriately hostile behavior. You can be perfectly compassionate while clicking the delete key (or, in the case of HuffPo, getting your friends to flag an outrageous comment).

      I embrace your compassion, but I also think your actions were right.

  4. William E. Ashton Avatar
    William E. Ashton

    You continue to inspire me in my own practice. Just keep in keepin’ on.

  5. Peter Dybing Avatar
    Peter Dybing

    Speaking to hate with compassion is one of the hardest things I have done recently. Doing so, centered with realistic expectations reflects my belief that all contain the spark of the divine, however well hidden. These are always hard choices my friend.

  6. Robert Patrick Avatar
    Robert Patrick

    And the path continues to unfold. I can tell you that we used your Huff Post as the closing words of our Ablan Heruin (Summer Solstice) ritual, and they were incredibly powerful. They dripped with compassion. So, the compassion continues to stir among us, however you experienced it.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you, Robert. I appreciate you sharing this with your group. I’m glad it resonated that deeply with you.

  7. Erick DuPree Avatar
    Erick DuPree

    This is beautiful, Teo. It takes humility to face hubris, and love to find divinity. Christianity teaches in Romans 8:28 “That in all things, God works to the Good of those who love Him who has been called according to his purpose.” The purpose of Jesus, is Love. That is the Gospel, it is sad to see it lost in the translation of patriarchy’s dogma, but it it is beautiful to see LOVE reflected in our Gods and in your divinity.

    Remember, the God of Abraham did not smite the Queen of Heaven, as She is worshiped my millions, Pagan and Christian alike. She has been with you from the beginning, and she is that which is attained at the end of desire. May your desires be ever blessed and Blessed Be!

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