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Dear Lois, Can compassion be a personal and political act?

Updated: Oct 20

by Lois Volta


Dear Lois,

What does forgiveness mean? Yes, it means to cease feeling resentment and to pardon someone’s “wrong doings”, but how does it actually play out in real life application? And, can forgiveness be a political act?


We are all human and are going to make minor and terrible mistakes. We are not always the best version of ourselves, and in that, we have the capacity to cause damage to the people in our lives, the planet and the greater picture. It is far easier to see the mistakes in others because of the grief that it may cause us. Casting judgement is easy, taking personal responsibility for the way you feel and how you respond, takes courage. 


We can perceive what we do, or what others do as mistakes, but I challenge that. I am a nasty feminist and I am not going to change that about myself. I’m not nice all the time, and that has to be ok. I will yell, kick and throw a dish if I have to, just to get out from under the oppressor. I also know that there is a peaceful path where truth and love can put down the weapons. We need to be able to shout, yell and be harsh when it’s called for. We also must recognize how we could be effective in our message by being loving, forgiving and kind. We are learning as we go, and this is a big moment for us as humans to get it right. 


Drawing hard lines, respecting boundaries and keeping our own well being in check sometimes has to be aggressive for our own self protection and well being. Force breaks things, and accepting that some things need to be broken will be part of our individual and collective process.  This energy allows us to get things done; sift through the clutter, throw away the trash and get creative with how we reimagine our lives. Basically, this energy releases us from what has been holding us back- as individuals and as a country.  


The whole system of how we were taught to engage with our lives is flawed, and doesn’t work. Sometimes we think that we are speaking up for ourselves by putting others down, but we should be lifting each other up! There are times when we are forceful with our words and it feels like the right things to do. Other times, in retrospect, we feel remorse and wish that we had been more graceful. The hope is that we can examine where we feel we could have done better and be strong when we spoke out to injustice (even if it hurts someone’s ego.)


I know that I will cause painful experiences for myself and others as I navigate through life’s troubled waters. I trust myself that I always want to be the best Lois that I can be, and I believe in myself. Growth is uncomfortable for everyone, and sometimes what we thought was right was wrong, and what was wrong was right. When we acknowledge this, we can have compassion for ourselves, and trust that we are doing our best, even if we say hurtful things out of a dark places. As Americans, we are collectively in a dark place, we are in this together. Give yourself a break, forgive yourself and recognize your humanity. You are more free to express your anger from a pure heart.


It is hard to watch someone suffering when you feel subjected to their trauma, history and pain. It is harder yet to be the person who explores pain with that person to find out what they need to heal and be there for them. This way of navigating suffering is more nourishing for you and the recipient of your kindness, although it is the road less traveled. 


I hear excuse after excuse when it comes to self exoneration from causing pain, and refusing to engage in someone else’s suffering. Will the person or group of people who are in pain take advantage, or become reliant?  Often people who are suffering are accused of not being strong enough to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  Skirting responsibility to someone in pain is an act of self reliance. I. JUST. CAN’T. The list could go on and on. It’s extremely risky to explore pain. Pain can be violent, abusive and depressed, but pain is where you find your own known wisdom. 


I consider my conflicts and remember where I’ve come from, everything that I’ve learned about myself and this world, and I ask myself if I am being the best Lois I can be, right now, in this moment. Is there malice, spite, hate, manipulation and disgust in my heart? No, there’s not. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and when I do, it sucks. I feel terrible, like a failure of my true self and part of the problem. I am extremely hard on myself to the point where I wear the pain of the oppressor and the oppressed- and quickly forget who I am. Still, there, there is no malice, just a hurt little girl who acted out and needs a hug. 


In the exploration of my pain I learn about the uncharted catacombs of self compassion and it’s reflection, love. Not everyone wants to explore compassion, it’s too hard and goes way too deep- far too risky for the weak hearted. But when I see the little girl inside me, and give her a hug, and tell her what to do, because I know now, I understand what it means to forgive myself and understand my own suffering through the eyes of compassion. We are all stunted children living in a world gone wrong. 


When we know what compassion now feels like, for ourselves, it is infinitely easier to forgive those who oppress us. This does not mean that we shouldn’t throw dishes and draw lines in the sand. Women should never be raped and Black Lives Matter. I can be passionately true to myself, my beliefs and still be loving and compassionate. It’s up to us to find out what is causing our pain, because it’s most likely causing pain for someone else, and you don’t want to dilute the bigger message by misdirecting your rage. You should care about this. Stop being toxic to others when your heart is true. Explore your pain, and clean it up. Draw the lines so you can heal the way you have to.


As individuals we all feel like there is enough on our shoulders, but we have to start caring about the people who are suffering right in front of us. Address your own pain like a patient, loving parent and learn what you need to do to feel safe and heal. When we are healthy, we can extend a hand to someone else who’s little girl inside might be scared, and angry. We know that this is good, and works, because we have felt it for ourselves. We know that others' pain is their own, but we have the power to be a loving influence. It is a choice to do this work, and it is not easy. We can forgive, so we all rise. We can drop what has been holding us back (ego and the patriarchy), and rise like a buoy from the depths of treasured oceans. 


Listen to the wisdom of people who know suffering, and who understand pain. 


We have to decide what side of the vote we stand on during this upcoming election. Many people vote on what they think is the “right thing to do”, but that has failed us in our broken system. This is not a religious war. We see where we have come from and it’s sinking in how terrible it all got. We have to break it, get serious and address the pain. We can then start to understand the mad, abused and forsaken. It is this path, the thorny path that will save our country. We need leaders who speak for the suffering, oppressed and poor. Vote for the leaders who hail compassion and love over fear and hate.



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