The lovely Elizabeth who writes at Almost Spring, posted a comment on Monday’s blog. She asks: “In regard to feeling compassion for your abuser, is that sympathy as in feeling sorry as you would for someone with an illness, or is it empathy in fully understanding WHY?”
Her question triggered an immediate fissure of disquiet within me. The phrase “feeling sorry for…” sets off alarm bells. It triggers memories of my past that do not sit well with me.
I love triggers! I get to look at them, explore them and then, set myself free.
When my youngest daughter was about five or six years old she had significant back pain. Doctors, numerous tests, twice yearly MRIs didn’t solve it.
Irish dancing did.
At least, that’s my belief.
But that isn’t what triggered my feelings of disquiet this morning. What triggered them was the memory of my mother saying, “Poor Lele. I feel so sorry for her.” She would repeat this, whenever we got together. Say it again and again. It drove me crazy!
I hate that. Seriously I do. Okay. Hate is a strong word. I strongly dislike when someone says, “I feel sorry for….” or, “Poor you, blah blah blah.”
I feel powerless in sorriness! And believe me, when your five-year old daughter is in constant pain and there are no answers as to why, feeling sorry and powerless just doesn’t cut it.
Eventually, the doctors did label her distress with a word I couldn’t spell let alone pronounce. Didn’t make the pain go away, but it did give me a label to focus on, to beat up, and to try to stuff into a box of my understanding.
Label in hand, I let go of ‘why’ and worked with my daughter to not let the label circumscribe her life. (which is where the Irish Dance came in and the subsequent years of ballet and jazz and every kind of dance she could imagine — the dance strengthened, and stretched, her muscles, improved her posture and in the movement, overrode the pain with grace and litheness that continues to enhance her life today.)
My biggest fear at the time was that my daughter would grow up believing she was ‘sick’ or different, even ‘sorry’. I couldn’t change the label and I definitely didn’t want her to believe she was dis-empowered by her disease. I wanted her to know she was powerful beyond her wildest imaginings.
I forbid my mother to say it.
It didn’t work.
It is part of her make-up. Her way of expressing sympathy and support. It is her way.
It’s not mine.
So when Elizabeth asked, ” is that sympathy as in feeling sorry as you would for someone with an illness,” my mind leaped to that ‘No Way!’ place, as I began to back pedal through memory to ensure I wasn’t wallowing in feeling sorry for someone else.
And now I’m smiling. And laughing at myself.
The answer is so simple.
I don’t feel sorry for him. That would dis-empower him and the universe. Feeling sorry for him would be to say he has no ability to manage his own actions, no capacity for change. No place for miracles in his life.
Like me, like you, like all of us, he deserves miracles. It’s his choice whether he chooses to open up to his own power, and the gifts of the universe, or not.
And I have nothing to do with his choices.
What I have to do with are mine — how I look at the past. How I chose to let what happened then, affect me now. And I choose to let it affect me, in Love.
I choose to breathe through Love into those spaces where discord, angst, pain and sorrow once consumed me. I choose to stand in Love and trust in the Universe to always be there, to always support, applaud and make possible our wildest dreams come true. I choose to believe in the wonder and awe of humankind. I choose to believe in the essential nature of our magnificence.
I choose not to ‘feel sorry’ for someone else. I choose to see their brilliance, their capacity and courage and ability and power to deal with whatever life has given them without my heaping ‘sorriness’ onto their back. They don’t need my sorry. They need my belief in their power. They deserve my absolute conviction that we are capable of creating miracles in our lives because, we are, each and every one of us, powerful, magnificent, miracles of Life. The Divine expression of amazing grace.
And when faced with situations where I have no control to change what another does (which is kinda always ’cause I can’t change another, I can only work on me :)), I choose to not dive into asking why does he do that? The why will always lead me back to the inexplicable. And trying to figure out his why, keeps my light from shining in my own life.
I choose instead to accept, it is who he is in this moment right now and what he is doing does not fit with my life — and let my thinking, and him, go. And as I do, I release myself from wishing and hoping and feeling sorry for another. I dissolve into Love. In Love I celebrate the capacity for change inherent in each of us. In Love I am released from feeling responsible for anyone else’s life but mine.
Thank you Elizabeth. Your question triggered my exploration of what is true for me. Your beauty inspired my heart to grow in Love.