I have often regarded compassion as being both my greatest strength and biggest weakness. I have a sensitive heart and I feel things deeply and heavily, both in a positive and negative way. I will probably always fall in love first, and I will be the one that hurts the most at goodbyes. Sometimes all it takes is one small comment to get deep inside my stomach and make me, quite literally, weak at the knees; anxiety envelopes me and I have to fight back hurt with overwhelming strength. But it will take a lot for you to see me cry. Perhaps I have gotten too good at suppressing emotions, or perhaps I have grown a resilience out of sensitivity, a strength out of compassion.
Somewhere down the line, society started viewing cruelty as strength. Perhaps from the very first days of conquerors overbearing whole populations - from slaveowners to dictatorships. Yet this masochistic power is hardly to be admired. Perhaps what we all need is a little bit of kindness and empathy, a little bit more compassion and love.
What I have learned is that being compassionate and loving and caring and kind does not mean that you are not strong. It does not mean that you have to be a pushover; that you cannot be a good business person; that people won’t take you seriously; nor that you cannot be loved. It doesn’t mean that you should be afraid of emotions — but embrace them instead. Sensitivity can be your greatest value, if you allow it.
I listened to an excellent podcast recently with the wonderful Cheryl Strayed, talking about kindness as being massively undervalued in our culture. Cheryl says that kindness does not subtract from strength, but rather that it is strength and a vital part of our lives and successes. As I listened to those words, it was like all my senses awakened and I wanted to scream, ‘yes! you’re so right!’ and have everyone else listen to it too, to understand how I feel and who I am… maybe that is who you are too?
Yes I may be kind and sensitive, crave love and compassion - both giving and receiving it - but I can be strong and climb mountains, bear my heart on the line, write about how I feel for all to see and mock if they wish. I’ll do it anyway - my sensitivity is strength. Indeed, I can be alone and independent, resilient to wild storms and cruel comments, but my heart is still sensitive and I will feel it deeply. And I am not ashamed of that.
That is who I am. Caught somewhere between compassion and strength. At times it is a wonderful symphony and other times it is a battle — and sometimes I can hardly tell them apart.
Compassion is my strength and kindness is my resilience. I will be bold, I will be loving and I will be kind even if you are cruel to me. I am a human contradiction and I am perfectly happy about that. Say it again, and again, and again.