Joy Secret Number Two: Compassion and Grace

The best place to start is often the most challenging -- compassion for ourselves! We are usually our own worst enemy, expecting ourselves to be perfect and being the first to judge and condemn ourselves.
12/07/2012 12:42 am ET Updated Feb 05, 2013

In the last two blogs we focused on the first step to joy: gratitude. Below is our second step: compassion and grace. Here are a few tips to develop the virtues of compassion and grace in your life.

Start with yourself! The best place to start is often the most challenging -- compassion for ourselves! We are usually our own worst enemy, expecting ourselves to be perfect and being the first to judge and condemn ourselves.

Your first task is to accept yourself just the way you are -- "warts" and all -- and to give yourself grace. Catch yourself when you criticize yourself and question the validity of what you are telling yourself.

Be wary of the judgments you use on yourself. Are you really a loser? Ugly? Hopeless? Or whatever unhelpful thing you label yourself as. You are doing the best you can in all areas of your life, given your current level of skills and knowledge. Remind yourself of that constantly.

If you know you are not doing your best, then change things so you are.

The mission of The Joy Project is to develop your capacity in all areas of life so you can, and do, unconditionally accept and love yourself -- which means you can truly love others.

Review and forgive. Rudolf Steiner suggests a great exercise: At the end of every day, review everything that happened -- backward. Forgive yourself for any mistakes you made. Forgive others for the mistakes they might have made. Bless the day and the lessons you might have learned.

Bless everyone who helped you by presenting an opportunity to learn those lessons!

See the big picture. Being compassionate means you have the ability to see a bigger picture of what is really going on. Most of our judgments and irritations and frustrations come when we are caught in our own little drama world and we don't have an understanding of all the elements involved.

Steven Covey tells a story of going home on a train one evening after work in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He is tired and crabby and just wants a peaceful trip home. At one station a young man with three small children boards the train and sits next to Covey. The children are running all over the train, disturbing passengers and making a noise. After a while, an irritated Covey asks the man to control his children.

The young man is startled, apologizes and says, "We have just come from the hospital where their mother died." In a heartbeat, Covey's behavior changes from irritation to compassion and caring. Understanding the whole picture changes everything.

Consciously look for and ask questions to give you more insight into all aspects of a situation before you respond with anything other than compassion!

Remember we are all connected. If you behave selfishly, you are disconnected from the whole! In this state it is difficult to have compassion for others. Whatever you do affects others -- we really are all one. We share the air we breathe, and there is a collective consciousness that affects us all. If you don't believe that, think of how one person's mood can affect an entire team or family.

What you do does matter, and so does what you think, because it shines out in the spirit in which you do things! Being compassionate means you are aware of the influence you have on everyone and everything.

Be kind -- it's a start to compassion! I remember hearing Wayne Dyer say, "It's better to be kind rather than right." How true! Think about that the next time you are in a "battle" of wills, which is really a battle of our egos trying to control others.

Consciously chose kindness. You will be more peaceful, and your heart will be more joyful!

Give others the benefit of the doubt. This is the simple way of giving others grace. We are continually blessed with grace. We make mistakes all the time and are constantly forgiven. Each time a toddler falls over when learning to walk, we don't berate them and point out how stupid they are! If we did, they would never survive emotionally. Nor do we assume they are trying to fail.

Yet, when others make mistakes around us, or behave in certain ways, we jump at the chance to assume the worst! We assume (making an ass out of you and me!) that people are talking about us, or that they are out to get us.

Stop it! Believe that people are doing their best and always take the "high road." That what they are doing has good intentions. Most people don't wake up wondering how they can make your life miserable! Remind yourself of that.

Be tender: Remind yourself everyone is fighting a hard battle! This gives you patience and tolerance and helps you treat others with tenderness.

Being tender not only makes you feel better but lifts others' spirits and connects you heart to heart. It's especially important in personal relationships. We find it easy to be tender with children, but our expectations (which determine our reality) are much harsher for adults!

Listen to your heart. It will always choose the compassionate path! Be aware of your compassion intelligence. Are you using it every moment, especially in the middle of a fight, argument or disagreement?

As the Dalai Lama says, "The true aim of the cultivation of compassion is to develop the courage to think of others and to do something for them." It's much easier to be selfish!

So there you have it -- just a few small, daily steps that will allow compassion to flow from your heart to all those around you. You may be surprised at how much more popular you "suddenly" become.

Amanda Gore

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