Compassion: It’s In The Way That You Struggle
Many people think the purpose in life is to reduce or eliminate the struggle; achieve a state where the hardships and suffering are gone. I disagree. I think it’s just the opposite.
The purpose of life is to find the purpose in struggle.
Life is struggle. That’s part of the human condition. What we do with that struggle is what matters most. Here are three ways that humans struggle negatively and without purpose.
We can choose to struggle against, turning every issue into a win-lose situation. When in doubt, blame. When there’s disagreement, attack. When points of view differ, criticize. Or, we swoop in with our solutions, thinking we know best. We seek first to be understood, disregarding others’ experience, and serving our own ego. Struggling against produces division and disconnection.
Struggling Instead Of
We can choose to take over the struggle for another person. We jump in front of the bullet, take it on the chin, and position ourselves as the sacrificial martyr. By struggling instead of them, we feel needed, but in doing so, we often create dependence and deprive the other person of the opportunity to learn and grow. How many parents have done this in the spirit of protecting their children? How many leaders have done this with capable adults with the same excuse?
We can choose to struggle alone. We might struggle silently, believing that no one would understand or care, or that we aren’t valuable enough to be supported. Or, we announce our struggles, complaining loudly to anyone who will listen, but refuse to accept help. It’s as if we take pride in our meaningless suffering, so we prefer to wallow rather than find purpose and change.
It’s In The Way That You Use It
One of my favorite songs by Eric Clapton, written especially for the movie The Color of Money, which was directed by Martin Scorsese and starred Paul Newman and Tom Cruise as pool sharks.
Some think this song is about sex. Some think it’s about authenticity in relationships. Some say it’s about not wasting talent, which is the theme of this movie. I think it’s about our relationship with the struggle.
The same is true about struggling. We approach struggle as the enemy and misuse it in ways that lead to disconnection. Or we can embrace the struggle, find the purpose, and build connection. Compassion is the solution.
Compassion Means “To Struggle With”
The purpose of struggle is to build connection. Compassion is what makes us human, bring us together, and gets us back on track when we lose our way. Struggling with someone is distinctly different from struggling against, instead of, or alone. Struggling with acknowledges several truths about being human:
- Our struggles are part of being human
- Our struggles can transform us if we all allow them to
- Struggles are meant to be experienced in community
- Struggling with someone else is so much more hopeful
The Compassion Mindset
Struggling with another person isn’t easy. It requires the right mindset so that we can use the struggle to find purpose and transformation rather than division and disconnection. The Compassion Mindset identifies three “switches” that all must be turned on for this to work; Value, Capability and Responsibility. We must treat ourselves and others as valuable, capable and responsible. Otherwise, the struggle will lead to failure. This requires courage, humility and bravery.
Which switches are turned off when we struggle against, instead of, or alone? How would you struggle differently if you kept your switches on?
This holiday season, consider the message and hope of Christmas. It’s about transforming the struggle. It’s about struggling with instead of against. How can you struggle with someone this holiday season to find purpose and transformation.
It’s In The Way That You Use It
by Eric Clapton