Sunday, January 29, 2017
I was recently asked regarding something we are working with Wild Heart on: Is she just being stubborn?
I stopped and turned to my friend and answered: I never assume that. Sure- sometimes horses might have an opinion of I don’t want to do that– but I try never to start with the idea they are just being stubborn, or disrespectful or any other negative attitude. I assume they are giving me their best at the moment, and we just move forward and try to improve on it.
It got me thinking- especially in today’s social climate, but it’s something I’ve been working through in my own world.
Real compassion, not just when it’s easy because you already have sympathetic feelings for someone easy to love. Or the kind that says “you are stupid and/or evil but I’ll still try to be nice toward you because I’m better and right”
I want to find the kindness in me where I can authentically care for the feelings of people who are just being stubborn, or have completely opposite viewpoints from mine, or who I’ve perceived to have hurt me in some way… or how about the ones engaged in behavior I find abhorrent?
How? And how is that different from condoning it?
Note: this is not for ‘their’ sake… doing someone else a favor by being kinder- but for my own sake. It expends a lot more energy working from adversity than from love in myself. Negativity is exhausting and draining. Compassion and real love are energizing and endless. It’s for ME that I want to find more compassion and connection- so I can have peace and energy to be more effective.
I think the key for me to work on has been the concept of Best.
Let’s take my horse as an easy example.
I learned yesterday that the amazing Khaleesi won’t load in the other (left) slot of my two horse trailer.
I always load her in the right. She is a perfect loader – I swing the lead rope over her neck and click to her and she walks on.
We are working on getting Wild Heart to load in the small slot with the divider in and she is worried about the confinement.
Because I began working on her on the right side- I wanted to allow her to continue there until she was ok before making a change. So I decided to load Khaleesi on the left side so Heart might be more comfortable knowing another horse is also confined comfortably and relaxed there.
Khaleesi refused to get on the left side. Then I insisted- I walked her on- she was terrified momentarily and shot out backwards in fear.
I scratched my head. Good to know!
My first belief is always that she is giving me her best. Apparently she is worried about being in that other side – for whatever reason I don’t really care– but if I assume she’s being stubborn or difficult on purpose I now color our interactions with negative connotations and have lost any compassion, empathy and connection to her. She is now a bad horse or a disrespectful horse. This changes my tone to either impatient, angry, resentful or even defensive.
In reality she’s a horse who doesn’t feel comfortable in the other trailer slot. If I assume she is doing her best I can now help her (that is my job) to get comfortable on that side and I will be more effective if I am connected to her and my relationship will not be destroyed in the process.
I love my horse and this is an easy example.
Let’s take the co-worker that doesn’t get me important information I needed and causes me stress in my work. (Substitute any work related issue here)
I can get annoyed that he isn’t doing his job properly, that he is making my job harder and is incompetent. I can lose connection with him and be at odds.
Probably won’t help a whole lot and cause stress. Ineffective.
Or I can decide that he is doing his best. And I can decide how to work within the situation to be most effective. I can’t fire him (not that I would or wouldn’t – but that not my job) but I can realize I may need to be more proactive in requesting information more often so what I need doesn’t slip through the cracks. I can help him do his job and make life better for both of us.
In reality he IS doing his best. That’s all we get at the moment. There’s no other option. ‘He should do his job better’ is just going to set me up for failure.
Does that mean accepting underperformance?
No- if I were the boss I may talk to the employee and ask for improvement in certain areas. If the person can grow- great- if there are things bad enough that the job isn’t being done then firing someone is always an option. It may be the most compassionate thing to do as the person may not be suited for the job- but it doesn’t need to be done with hostility or disconnection.
Let’s move to a whole new layer- where the rubber meets the road. Someone harder to care about – an abusive husband, a criminal, a politician you completely disagree with… a dangerous world leader … substitute the one who gives you the most stress here.
Can one look at a husband who abuses his family and say he is doing his best?
Personally I believe yes.
That person is very likely living in pain and fear and cycles from generations past. It is sad an unfortunate. This is not an easy process- but believing the abuser IS doing his best changes the dynamic in connection but doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be removed from those he’s abusing.
But is that human less deserving of true compassion and love?
That doesn’t mean staying in a bad situation, or taking away consequences or legal punishment for those who do wrong. But it does allow me to not hold hate, anger and resentment disconnecting me from the world and making me less effective in handling the situation.
All the stressful thoughts and feelings make it harder to make clear choices and act. It is me that I hurt when I hold onto hate- or righteousness – of being better or different. Separated.
I can’t just be more compassionate automatically, but when I take a step back in every disappointment and assume the others involved are also doing their best at the moment it makes me better at moving forward clearly.
I cannot change one person around me, but I can work on me. One day and one stressful thought or situation at a time. And as I get better and more connected I see everything around me get better.
For me, in practice, it starts at the barn. With my horses who I desperately want connection with above all else. Every time I assume a horse is acting badly on purpose I have lost connection and effectiveness to work on improvement.
When I assume she is giving me her best I find her best gets better all the time.