Compassionate Acronyms

Quick, think of the person you dislike the most in the world.  Do you have a name in mind?  Has this person hurt you?  Hurt your family?  Said awful things to/about you?  Did this person lie to you?  Stab you in the back?  Steal from you?  All of the above?

How do you feel when you think about this person?  What thoughts or emotions get stuck on “repeat” when you hear that name?  Are you livid?  Seething?  Broken?  Are you wondering, How could you? Or, Why would you?  Do you feel powerful?  Powerless?  Do you feel hateful?

I whole-heartedly believe that compassion is the antidote to all of those unpleasant emotions.  I also know that, when you’re upset with someone, you don’t want to be compassionate towards them.  And even if you do, it’s freaking hard.

To make this easier, I started using a new trick- it involves turning the person’s name into an acronym.  Wanna try one?

Let’s pretend the name of your nemesis is “Laurie” (my apologies to all Lauries.  This is nothing personal, it’s just an example).  This woman might be your ex, your ex’s partner or your partner’s ex.  She could be a cantankerous coworker or a feisty family member.  And it might be entirely true that Laurie is Loud, Angry, Ugly, Rigid, Immature and Egotistical.  However, that’s not a very compassionate perspective (although it is incredibly easy, isn’t it?).  Let’s be a little more sensitive to Laurie’s predicament and try again.  The next time you think about Laurie, try seeing her as someone who is…

  • Lost (perhaps Laurie is at a bad place and she’s having a hard time finding her compass)
  • Anxious (anxiety is a crippling affliction to live with)
  • Un-secure (maybe she can’t pay her rent or she doesn’t feel loved by her family)
  • Ruined (Financially? Socially? Spiritually?)
  • Ignorant (she doesn’t know the extent of the anger/anguish she’s caused you)
  • Exhausted (like the rest of us, she’s fighting a great battle)

I like this exercise because it shifts the identification from That Person to a person.  No longer is Laurie the woman who [insert crime here], she’s now a human being whose vulnerability we can identify with.  Under such circumstances, the juices of empathy flow more freely.  Thus, we are freed from the animosity that otherwise holds us captive amidst sixty shades of darkness.

“Compassion compels us to reach out to all living beings, including our so-called enemies, those people who upset or hurt us.  Irrespective of what they do to you, if you remember that all beings like you are only trying to be happy, you will find it much easier to develop compassion towards them” -The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

What do you think?  Have you been able to redefine the object of your enmity?  Do you feel any different towards him/her?  Do you prefer another tactic?  Tell me about it…

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  1. I love that you are discussing this. The object of my enmity of my husband’s ex. He has already gotten to where I want/need to be. When it comes to alienating their kids against him, he understands that she couldn’t help it because she is weak, insecure, unhappy, and likely always will be. He finds it sad, but not angering. Some days I am there and can feel the compassion, other days, (when she creates drama in our lives, changes the course of our day/week, uses one of the kids as a pawn) not so much. But, it’s really the only possible place to be where the frustration, anger, hurt, etc., doesn’t rule one’s life. It’s the only place we CAN be, if WE want to be happy.

    • I’m familiar with that tough situation, Rachel.

      Your husband has the right idea- his ex’s behavior is all about her, and it’s truly a sad situation. Having a compassionate (and forgiving) attitude doesn’t mean that you condone or excuse the other person’s behavior…. Like you said, it’s about freeing *yourself* to be happy.

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  3. No, that doesn’t make me feel better. What helps me is to think of him as dead. The man I married doesn’t exist anymore; he died. In his place is a midlife-crisis clown who is, unfortunately, the father of my children. I envy those who don’t have children to tie them forever to the Judas who cheated and lied to them.

    • I know what you mean. And I agree: sometimes it is necessary to think of your previous partner as someone who no longer exists. Sometimes that’s the truth. And, while that’s terribly unfortunate, the “dead” perspective is one of acceptance for the way things are… and that in itself is part of the healing process.

      The compassionate perspective can help when dealing with the *alien* that has taken his/her place.

  4. I do this to some extent – when he makes choices that limit his involvement or whines about things that could be at least interesting with the right attitude (woe! service to support the baseball association SUCKS! … or… a chance to meet and get to know other parents of kids your child knows) – I think how much it has to suck to be him going through life (I do this with other people who are overly concerned about other’s opinion, or stressed about minor things, etc). It has to be SO HARD to be these people.

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