Speech can be one of our most powerful tools, or strongest weapons. It can make two people fall in love. It can rip that same couple to shreds 20 years later resulting in a messy divorce. It can unite conflicting parties to terms of peace and understanding, or it can bring nations to the brink of war. It can offer wisdom and help to a friend, or stranger, in need, or it can offer abuse and perpetuate hatred and negativity. It can make you happy, or it can make it you suffer. It can set things right, or it can make your life a living hell. It can literally be the difference between life and death.
From the beginning of our life, to the last moments before death, we are surrounded by speech and communication. It helps mold our realities, our perspectives, and our emotions. It allows us to share information crucial to our development and survival. It sets our thoughts and ideas free into the universe, allowing them to become real and influential. It makes us feel more connected to each other.
We underestimate the power of our speech. Speech can be seen as a reflection of the inner-workings of one’s mind. Everything we communicate originates from the contents of our mind. There’s a myriad of different factors that come in to play when determining why one thinks the way they do, but much of that content has originated, or at least been shaped and formed differently, from what you’ve heard and have been influenced by from somebody else’s words. If you take that concept and reverse it, you can also see how the words you choose to use, and how you decide to use them, may potentially influence whoever they come into contact with.
Why We Should Choose to Cultivate Compassion
Pain and suffering is universal. No matter your race, religion, height, weight, sexual preference, or gender, we all feel pain and suffering. With how interconnected we are, that pain rarely stays exclusively within ourselves. Sure, some of us are better at dealing with it than others, and some of us are master at masking it, but eventually, it will come to the surface. The energy of pain needs an outlet. You know this is true if you’ve ever tried to hold it all in and keep it to yourself, acting like nothing is happening, only to have it explode after finally being triggered. We all have our different way of “letting it out”. Some of us hold it all in and neglect dealing with it, acting like nothing is happening, maybe numbing it with distractions or intoxicants. Some of express it through anger. We find the first justifiable reason to get pissed off, then that person or object instantly becomes the outlet for our anger, or more precisely, pain.
That’s the shift that needs to happen. We need to switch our point of view. When we feel angry or sad for example, we always tend to justify our feeling by putting the blame on external factors. It’s never our fault that we’re angry or sad. We need to shift that way of thinking, and understand that you’re simply feeling pain, and even though you’re mad at the world, what that really means is that you’re lacking love and compassion in this moment, either from within yourself or somebody else.
Understanding your own pain will help you understand the suffering of others. Only then can you begin to feel compassion towards others. Once you see every other being as somebody with weakness, suffering, and problems of their own, your perspective of shifts. You begin to see yourself as someone who sometimes suffers and needs help, which helps foster a feeling of humility, and open more to help from others and from the universe. You begin to judge other people’s sadness, anxiety, and weakness less. Instead of going on the defensive when somebody is angry and verbally attacking you, you see them as somebody that is dealing with a great amount of pain. They need love, compassion, and understanding more than anything. Your heart begins to soften. It’s easy to attack somebody back, it’s easy to ridicule and judge. It takes true strength to show kindness and compassion in the face of adversity, to let your walls down and allow yourself to remain vulnerable, to not react to their energy of pain and stand firm in your own love and understanding. There is a true strength in softness.
“Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.”– Dalai Lama
Communication is key, I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Oftentimes when you, or you and a loved one, feel pain, communication can be the difference between continuing to suffer or resolving the root of the problem. If you and your spouse are having problems, we have three options: Communicate ineffectively, don’t communicate at all, or communicate effectively.
Option 1: Ineffective Communication
This happens when both parties are speaking from their pain. Their pain they feel are both justified on external factors. Justifying the cause of their pain makes it valid. They are both right to feel what they feel, they are both the victim of their pain, and the other is wrong, and/or doesn’t understand. This conversation is mainly a back and forth tennis match that turns into a full-blown battle of rights and wrongs. If continued long enough, a boiling point is eventually reached. Once this point is reached, one or both parties have either completely lost control of their thoughts and emotions. Possibly, the high level of pain taken and dealt may cause a break in one’s hardened exterior, revealing the reality of a soft, vulnerable, broken person, where compassion can then enter the situation, but this isn’t always the case
Option 2: Avoidance of Communication
This happens more than you’re aware of. This is when both parties are aware of an issue, but never confront it. It’s always easier in the moment to sweep the problem off to the side instead of having that difficult conversation you know awaits once that door is opened. But the door is never opened. This does not make your problem go away. This does not resolve anything, This only allows it to grow under your thin surface of ignorance, and accumulate to even bigger proportions. Just because you choose to ignore it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It shows in subtle ways at first. Maybe she doesn’t look at you the same. Maybe he’s more short with you, and talks to you in a less tolerable manner. Maybe you both used to have free-flowing conversation, unhindered by the subtle uneasiness of something lurking beneath the surface, but now you both drown yourself in your daily tasks and Netflix shows until it’s time for bed. Eventually, as the problem grows, brewing, it comes out in more obvious ways, maybe as verbal jabs and insults, or less sex. Eventually it will grow enough to the point where it is now unavoidable, and the explosion may be too strong for both of you to handle.
Option 3: Effective Communication
This happens when both parties have the common goal to get to the root of the issue, wherever that may take them. This happens when both parties shut up and listen to the other, and replace the need to defend and prove wrong with the need to understand the other’s pain and suffering. This can only happen from a place of openness, with the realization that your perceptions might be wrong. It will require each party to look closely at their faults, realize what they’ve done wrong, and openly admit to what extent they’ve caused the damage. This will hurt at first. This is why this is the more difficult, and more avoided path. It’s easier, or so we think, to convince ourselves that this isn’t our fault, to focus what they’ve done wrong, what they should’ve done differently, while holding ourselves in a light of innocence and victimhood. It’s hard to admit your own faults. It’s painful to even look at them. Each party, understanding their own pain, and their own fault, can then work to understand the other’s pain. From this place of openness and understanding, compassion will arise. Compassion is necessary. After all, you both do love each other, right? Staying open to the possibility that you may be wrong, you might actually realize that you were wrong. Then, you might even be able to actual fix it. You realize that you’re also not perfect. Looking at your faults, you realize you may not have handled the situation with as much love and compassion as you possibly could have. You realize compassion and understanding from the start may have changed the relationship’s whole trajectory. This realization will help you learn to grow in the right direction, to better handle future situations in a more loving manner, reducing the amount ofpain dealt and inflicted.
Be More Compassionate With Yourself
In the wise words of Gandhi, “be the change that you wish to see in the world”. This couldn’t be more true in respect to compassion. Most of us are overly-critical of ourselves. This leads to negative self-talk, which eventually leads to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, which leads us to be MORE overly-critical of ourselves, and the cycle continues. As stated earlier, your speech is a direct reflection of the contents within your mind. Negative self-talk is.. negative.
Understand that there is always a more positive way to see things, to see yourself, to see a situation. As recommended by Psychology Today, make yourself aware of negative messages and counteract them with a positive truth. The key-word here is truth. We’re not falsely psyching ourselves out, we’re not lying to ourselves. You’re miserable that you don’t have something you want? Be grateful for something you have. Don’t think you’re good enough because you lack a certain quality? Realize how awesome you are because of a special quality you do have. Don’t feel like anything is ever going to get better? Tell yourself that pain is only temporary, and it will pass, as do all phases in life. This doesn’t mean you won’t work to get things in life, or to be a better person and harness those qualities you lack. All this does is switch your mind from coming from a place of lack, to coming from a place of abundance. Instead of feeling you’re insufficient, you know that you are sufficient, and also know you have something to give to others. You stop being the victim of circumstance. You understand you’re not perfect, and show yourself compassion when you feel pain. When you’re able to show yourself compassion, you will then be able to show the world more compassion, and only then, will pain begin to heal.
When it seems most difficult to keep me close, is probably the time that I need you most.– Brother Ali