Active alcoholism is strangling her. I can hear it in her voice. Intuitively I know that she’s not ready to make the changes necessary to recover. My knee jerk reaction is to throw up my defenses, “Sucks to be her.” My compassion rises and drips over the wall and say, “Oh God, it’s so painful. So sad, alcoholism sucks.” Walls are easier.
Walls protect us from vulnerability, and they keep us from having to engage with the world around us. Emotional fortresses, protecting us from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” We don’t have to be involved in the messes of other people. If so and so wants to drink themselves to death, fine. They want to marry that abusive jerk, fine. That homeless drunk on the side of the road panhandling for cash? He’s probably bringing in $50K a year and drinking it all up, why should we give him the change in the car’s cup holder.
Walls can be made up of self-righteous judgment, intolerance, or flat out indifference. Self-righteousness and intolerance feel much more empowering than compassion.
Compassion requires that we lower the walls and imagine what it must be like to be that other person. It requires us to experience sadness and grief, hopelessness, and despair. Those emotions are not very empowering, and they feel yucky and gross — the opposite of good. No one wants to feel bad. Of course, we opt for the more empowering self-righteousness and intolerance.
We talk about changing the world and making it a better place to be. We speak of love and tolerance, of bridging the gap between the haves and the have nots. We complain that the politicians are insensitive and that the religious leaders are hypocrites. The solution of society’s ills isn’t through the government or the religious bodies. The solution is with us. It’s with you and with me. We have to be brave enough to recognize when our internal Captain Picard has ordered “Shields Up!” and try, however imperfectly, to practice compassion and vulnerability. Love is a verb, and we need to exercise it. But we can’t if our walls are up.
Just for Today
I’m going to pay attention to when my walls come up. What triggered the “Shields UP!” command? What happens if I practice putting myself in someone else’s shoes? What happens if I try to understand where someone else is coming from? What happens if I choose to love instead of judge?
God, I can’t change these profoundly ingrained behaviors. I just discovered that I’m using my resources to protect me. Help me to surrender my DIY walls and trust in your protection. Help me remember that you will meet all my needs and that I am safe and secure.