I was on a weekend retreat in Colorado with thirty other people.
Each of the people that were there was selected by the primary criteria of them all being young entrepreneurs who were game-changers in their field (according to the event organizers).
There was one woman in particular who I really felt a pull towards.
Me being me, always the observer… rarely the engager, I watched her from a distance for the first two days of the event.
I saw her interacting with everyone with such a deep and genuine underlying foundation of love. After watching her enough without having said more than a handful of words to her the whole weekend, I felt ready to ask her the thing I’d wanted to ask her since I first saw her engaging with the people around her.
I waved my hand at her in a sweeping gesture (like the “wax-on” motion from the original Karate Kid movie) and said, “How did you come to be this way?”
‘This way’ meaning kind, compassionate, and a total force of easily flowing love.
She intuitively knew what I meant by my question, she paused… a long pause. And she broke the silence with something that has affected me to this day.
After a deep breath, and with ice-y green eye contact that pierced into my soul, she said, “It was hard-won.”
That was it. That was all that she needed to say. It was hard-won.
The depth of her compassionate way of being came from all of the healed pain that she had endured and worked through over multiple decades of living.
And she is far from being an anomaly.
All of the greatest people that I’ve ever met have consistently experienced the greatest pain. They’ve all been through things that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Every person that I have ever met that carries this unique general aura of deep love, compassion, and kindness has been through hell and back.
And maybe this is just a general human thing. We’ve all been through and experienced pain… and eventually lived to tell the tale.
Everyone has either been depressed, or anxious, or lost someone close to them (to death or to the ending of their relationship). Everyone has either been bullied, or ridiculed, or shamed, or abused in some form of another. To some extent, we all bump around into each other through our lives and unknowingly step on each other’s emotional wounds (or knowingly or unknowingly do our part in creating those wounds for others).
Pain isn’t unique. It isn’t an outlier of an experience. It is the human condition. Which is not to say that it is the underlying emotion of all human experience… but it is one of them.
There is great pain in the world… and there is great love in the world. Regardless of what we’re feeling on any given day, we never know what, on the emotional spectrum, someone we interact with is feeling.
I believe that the only humane response in a world where we don’t know if someone just had amazing sex within the last 12 hours, or if they just broke up with someone that they cared about deeply, or if they lost both of their parents in a car crash, is a big, epic dose of loving kindness.
When I see people honking their car horns at each other on a beautiful sunny day (which is rare weather for where I live), I don’t curse those people for having tempers… I assume that they might be suffering in ways that I know nothing about.
When I see a barista looking tired and low energy, I don’t judge them by assuming that they were out partying the night before… but rather that they might have just been left by their long term partner and they’re deeply hurting.
When someone sends me a long, intelligently crafted email about how something in one of my articles offended them, I don’t take it personally. Instead, I jot down a dozen reasons that my writing might have been triggering for them and I find compassion in my heart for them.
And when you come across someone who seems to have extra room in their heart for others, recognize that they might have come to be that way by having gone through tremendous pain themselves, and healing it through facing and feeling their wounds.
We’re all human. And we’re all in this together.