It was a typical Tuesday evening in my sex offender treatment group. The young man I’ll call Evan, a lanky and disheveled young man entered the group room with a distraught look on his face. He quietly announced he needed time to talk. While starring at the floor he hunched over and slowly told the group that his girlfriend forced him to leave his home. His eyes teared up when he talked about losing his relationship with his girlfriend. He expressed shame and fear about his future. He began to indulge in his misery when a large African American man in the group I will call Bill spoke up. Bill widened his shoulders and presented an even more imposing stature as he leaned in then stroked his beard and said, “There’s a whole lot of bullshit in here! Man, you better take a sip of the cup!” Bewildered, the group scratch their heads and asked Bill to explain what he meant. Bill scratched his head looking more frustrated and said, “The word CUP stands for Compassion, Understanding, and Patience. Compassion: Man, you got to have compassion for those people you hurt. You got to develop compassion for yourself and your problems. Don’t excuse it! Don’t lie to yourself! Just have compassion. Understanding: you got to understand why you do what you do. Take time to listen. Understand why she left you. What did you do to cause it? Understand why you lost your job. Understand it’s not all about you! Patience: Be patient with yourself! Be patient with the people you care most about. Be patient at work. Understand you need to wait for stuff that’s worth it. Learn to delay gratification if you want to have success. Man, Take a sip of that cup!”
Bill’s comments in the group made me wonder how can we be more compassionate to ourselves? How can we be more compassionate to each other? Have you ever practiced a compassion meditation? You can do this by sitting quietly and breathing slowly and making yourself comfortable. As you breathe, focus on your efforts and your good intentions and practice speaking to yourself in a compassionate manner. “I really try hard at ____. I am getting better at _____. I really struggle with _________. May I have peace. May I have success. May I have happiness. May I feel contentment.” Then, slowly transition from focusing on yourself to practicing compassion for someone you adore. Try focusing on what you love about that person. Then focus on how they try. Focus on where they struggle. Focus on what they are improving. Then send out a wish for that person to have peace, to feel loved, to experience happiness and to feel content. Then try to focus on practicing compassion for a neutral person. Notice kindness where you may not have noticed it before. Notice efforts made where you might have previously ignored it. Send the neutral person a wish of peace, success, happiness, contentment. You then focus on developing compassion for someone you don’t like. Try to focus on positive aspects of that person. Try to identify efforts that the person made that are praiseworthy. If possible, send that person a wish for peace, happiness, and contentment.
His comments in group also maybe wonder what do we all need to understand better about our lives and the people who are in it. It made me wonder who do we need to work harder to understand in our lives? Bill also mentions some ways that he himself has misunderstood others who had the best intentions. He identifies using what I call Cognitive Filters. Early childhood experiences early relationships with significant people and our fears associated with these experiences shapes the way we hear what people tell us and what we say and do in return. Have you considered whether or not you have heard your loved ones clearly today? Have your fears gotten in the way of hearing what others have told you at work?
Bill’s comments also made me wonder how can we all be more patient with ourselves and with each other? Have you ever taken the time to wonder why someone bothers you more than someone else? Have you ever wondered what it is that makes you lose patience? How does your thinking need to change to allow you to develop more patience?