What if you could make it through a day without judging the people around you, and specifically the people you love.
Is it possible at the end of the day you might love yourself a little more, too?
I’ve always heard the adage that what drives us most crazy in others are characteristics that we ourselves possess. I’ve recently been particularly discouraged by a family member who is always criticizing everything that other people do. I try to explain that person’s point of view, even if only fabricated by my imagination, in a way that will make my loved one understand that the people she is condemning are fighting their own battles, and that they are ‘doing the best they can’. Because aren’t we all just doing the best we can? The irony is not lost on me that I’ve been particularly and relentlessly condemning this person for his (yes, this is pronoun redirection) relentless condemning of others.
I’ve been reading a lot about love and acceptance and how it relates to letting go of your perfectionism and in particular, I came across a blog today: how a simple loving-kindness meditation can transform your life, which describes how we all have the capacity for boundless love and kindness and that we need to let go of the fear that is getting in the way of experiencing the boundless love. The post is way more complex than this one sentence, and it’s great. The meditation that the article suggests is this: ”Breathe in – cherish yourself, breathe out – cherish others.” This got me to thinking about whether judgement of others gets in the way of the pure and uncomplicated love for myself, and whether the perfectionism that at times tortures me is getting in the way of my boundless love for others. You must first breathe in in order to have the air to breathe out, but you also have to breathe out so that your lungs are empty to once again breathe in. This organic and perfect cycle, which is present in all things, can be a model for practicing uncomplicated love. Let go of your judgement of others in order to accept your own imperfection, and practicing boundless love for yourself will overflow into your love of others.
Now this is a grand idea that we can read and say, “Yes, actually, that would be quite nice, wouldn’t it?” But the difficult part is how to put it into practice. I think I have a good starting point.
Go back to repeating to yourself that “We are all doing the best that we can” and think of what the person might be going through that would cause them to do the thing that is driving you so crazy. In other words, make excuses for them. For most of my life, I’ve been making excuses for the people I love, the people I know, and the people I don’t know but who just cut me off on the road. I can’t claim that I do this 100% of the time, but I promise you that as soon as you’ve completed this task, which can also be an exercise in creative thinking, you feel a lot better than you do if you accelerate to try and not let the car in, then tailgate them when they make it through anyway. I will get sucked into road rage from time to time, but at least 75% of the time, an alarm goes off in my head that asks, “Is it worth it to let this person who I don’t even know fill me with negativity??” And the answer is always the same. No.
You can use this same technique for all kinds of things that drive you crazy about others. Your husband left his wet towel on the floor, your friend cancelled your plans at the last minute, and on and on. One way that you don’t even have to be creative is to think of a time that you did the same, because I’m sure if you haven’t left a wet towel on the floor, you have done something small that drives your significant other crazy. You’ve probably cancelled plans at the last moment, and who hasn’t cut another driver off when they aren’t paying attention or are in a crazy hurry?
When you think about the reason why you make these insignificant transgressions, you can easily give the person doing so a break for doing the same. When you forgive others for these little things, you know what? You’re also letting yourself off the hook for being less than perfect, and allowing your love to shine through. Love is way more important than whether or not my husband puts the correct pajamas on my 1 year old. Love is way more important than whether I want to hear my loved one complain about her neighbor who just can’t get it together. Loving myself means having a peaceful drive from here to there, and not caring if I have to slow down to let one (or even five) cars in because it’s Friday afternoon and they are ready to drink a margarita. My margarita is waiting for me, and if it takes 30 more seconds to reach my lips, it won’t matter, because I rejected allowing the stress of getting there to define the 20 minute car ride.
I want to be clear that making excuses for the little things does not mean you make excuses for people who are deliberately or repeatedly hurtful to you. I’m talking about the things that don’t really matter in life. The things that you will forget in 5 minutes or a day or a week. The things that you harp on yourself about when the perfectionist monster has your ear.
I wish I could say that I never judge, because obviously I do and any of my friends who are reading this and thinking about the last time we got together and I complained about this person or that knows that I am just as quick to vent as anyone else. This is why I call this technique ‘practice’.
Breathe in – I am doing the best I can, breathe out, we are all doing the best we can. Each breathe in makes breathing out possible and each time we empty our lungs, we are preparing them to be filled again with forgiving, healing, loving air. When we accept others, we can more purely love ourselves, when we truly and uncomplicatedly love ourselves, there is nothing to get in the way of our boundless love for others. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Thank you, again, to Mary for inspiring this post.