The hardest kind of compassion: A gift of kintsugi gold

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

Kintsugi (kintsukuroi) ocean jasper stone heart pendant with gold repair on black cotton cord 

This post of part of a series on the subtle gifts of kintsugi gold. In this series, I am sharing some of the gifts I have discovered in the gold of my own healing in the hopes that it will help others identify the quiet gifts available to them. All people are different, however, and all forms of brokenness and healing are likewise unique, so my experience may or may not resemble yours. I hope it can still be a starting point for searching for and discovering your own gifts hidden in your healed scars.

One of the most obvious gifts of kintsugi living is an increased compassion for those around us who are hurting, especially those who are facing similar types of brokenness to what we have faced.

Most of us have experienced this, and this kind of compassion comes easily and naturally to us. It's just an enhancement of the natural compassion we already had for others.

While this kind of compassion is vitally important and can lead to us using our experiences for good to help others, it's not the kind of compassion I am focused on today.

The kind of compassion I am thinking about it much harder—harder to develop to begin with and harder to hold onto—because it involves facing our shadows and finding compassion even there.

Facing my shadow

As I went through my season of intense brokenness with every part of my life fallen in broken shards around me, I was not at my best (to say the least).

In fact, I was nowhere close to being on my best behavior.

I was hurting, angry, afraid, overwhelmed, exhausted, and grieving. I cycled through those various emotions so fast that even I couldn't keep track on them. All I knew was that I walked day by day on a knife edge of pain that sliced me open at random moments throughout my days.

And as hard as I tried not to, the result was that I often reacted like someone who was afraid, angry, and in pain.

I lashed out like a wounded animal, blew up at the smallest provocations, pushed people away when they tried to help, accused people of all kinds of things that my weary, hurting mind conjured up as additional injuries, and was generally vicious (verbally) with anyone who brushed against one of my gaping wounds.

I was often unkind, resentful, and snarling with rage that simmered like lava just under the surface.

As this shadow side of myself erupted in full force in my life and damaged one relationship after another, I had no choice but to face that this is a part of who I am.

It's not who I want to be. It's not how I see myself. I'd rather pretend that part of me didn't exist, but I couldn't do that anymore. It had punched its way so thoroughly out of my shadow that I had to look it right in the eye and deal with it.

Dealing with my shadow

Part of facing this part of my shadow was realizing just how helpless I was in its path of destruction.

Fighting against this snarling, vicious monster in me was like resisting a tornado's destruction with an umbrella.

Judging, criticizing, and demeaning myself for acting in these ways only added fuel to the fire.

The only thing that calmed the raging beast was to look it straight in the eye and offer compassion for the grieving, fearful, angry heart that beat beneath its surface.

Learning to genuinely offer myself compassion even when I was at my very worst was the key that opened the door to healing and to regaining control over my reactions.

But learning to offer myself compassion when I was at my worst was only the first step.

The hardest compassion

Once I had gotten to know this raging, pain-driven beast in my own heart, I couldn't help but see how a similar beast drives the hurtful behavior of others.

Underneath their actions and words, I began to recognize the familiar lashing whip of pain and fear driving their bruised hearts into monster territory just as mine was.

And that forever changed how I see myself and others. It dimmed my usual lens of judgment into one that offered infinite space for compassion, even for others at their worst.

That doesn't mean that I don't get angry when people do things to hurt me or those I love. It doesn't mean that I don't take whatever steps are necessary to protect myself, when needed. Just as there were people who needed to remove themselves (justifiably so!) from relationship with me when I was at my worst.

It does mean, though, that I am able to see and feel compassion for the wounded, scared child in them even as I do what needs to be done to protect myself and others. Because I know the raging monster that drives them all too well, and I know what it is like to be helpless in its grip.

Compassion for myself and for others at our worst is the hardest kind of compassion I've ever had to develop, but the raging monster in me left me no choice.

The gift in it for me has been that it depersonalizes others' bad behavior. When I can see with compassion that it is being driven by their own pain and fear (even if they are completely unaware of them), it's clear that their actions are about them and not about me, so I don't have to take it personally.

It allows me to choose an appropriate reaction with greater clarity and with less triggering of my own inner monster because it's not about me.

As you might imagine, learning this hardest kind of compassion is an ongoing process that will likely be a lifetime's work. I still don't have it mastered. But the degree to which I've learned it so far has not only offered so much healing, it's done so much to reduce the number of injuries that require healing.

It's a gift that keeps on giving.

For reflection

In what ways are you at less than your best when you are hurting, angry, tired, or afraid? How do you react to yourself when those less-than-best parts of yourself show up?

Do you own those parts of yourself or deny them? Do you judge them? Fight them? Blame them on others? Offer them compassion for the pain underneath?

How do you react to the less-than-best behavior of others? How does it change things to see the pain and fear that is driving those parts of them?

To what extent have you already developed this hardest kind of compassion for yourself and others? How has it been a gift?

What would it look like to cultivate a little more of this hardest kind of compassion in your life?

 


Other posts in this series


 

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