I wrote this letter to a loved one who recently came to me in a lot of pain. He was very frustrated at me and coming at me with a great deal of negativity. I just held space and listened, though some of the words struck me as a bit harsh. I let those feelings come and let them go. There was a time a few years ago that this discussion I had would have left me very devastated, but I could only feel compassion for the pain he was in. One of the gifts that came from this confrontation was me writing a response that I could share with the world. I'm hoping it benefits everyone who reads it in some way, or at least serves as a reminder.
Dear ___ ,
I felt your pain when we last spoke, and I really wanted to reach out to you with some things that I would like someone to tell me if I were in your position. So take what you want from this and forget the rest.
- Everyone is doing the best they can given the way they were brought up. You would be just like any other person if you had walked in their shoes. Compassion comes from this recognition.
- What happened in the past was necessary, because that's what happened. Thinking things "should" have gone differently is a painful way to live because you're arguing with reality. Simply realizing and accepting the current state as the necessary outcome of everything leading up to it frees you from the past and let's you focus on what's needed now. Self forgiveness and the forgiveness of others is born out of the recognition that the past was unavoidable and unchangeable. Eliminating "should" from your worldview is very freeing (see the Underlying Should for more).
- You can't do it wrong. You can only do it the way your life has set you up to do it, which is the best that you know how. When you recognize that whatever you do is the right/best thing to do, moving forward becomes lighter and less stressful. Clear thinking comes from the confidence that you can't do it wrong, even if the outcome isn't what you had hoped for. There is no fear of failure governing the decision making process when you know this to be true.
- We all have our issues, many of which are the same (i.e. money, relationships, work, etc.) and those issues can become part of our identity. For example, many people become addicted to being a victim and see the world as an unkind place. Those people are closed off to the possibility that the belief in being a victim is the only thing making them a victim. If someone suggests that their thinking is responsible, they get very defensive because their whole identity is built on that belief. Plus, they see the world as too threatening to let down their guard.
I want you to know that I love you, and that I would do anything to help you. The only thing I know to do is share the wisdom I've gained over the years with all of my personal struggles (and I've had more than my fair share). There are no problems, only challenges, and we are always up to the task of whatever Life throws our way, especially if our minds are clear and not bogged down with the past, nor fearful of the future. Believe it or not, Life can be peaceful even in the midst of chaos. The key is to examine your worldview when ever you experience stress. Thoughts create problems where there are really just situations that need to be dealt with.
Thank you for coming to me with all of your concerns. I know that wasn't easy for you, and it would have been much more painful for me without the clarity I have gained over the last few years.
I love you,