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the gift of compassion

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Last week I heard from a friend who a year ago severed our relationship. Saying little about herself, she wrote to say sorry for having caused me pain. Judging by the relief I felt on hearing this, I now realize how much I’ve let my happiness be shaped by another person’s preferences. 

Looking back on it all, I’m glad that instead of reacting in anger (at being rejected), I walked a course of compassion. Seems that I’m still capable of learning big lessons. For this I’m grateful: to my friend for her courage and kindness to write and for the boundless unfolding of life’s mystery. (See also tomorrow’s post on compassion.)

Henri Nouwen says this about the muddle of needs and desires:

“You keep listening to those who seem to reject you. But they never speak about you. They speak about their own limitations. They confess their poverty in the face of your needs and desires. They simply ask for your compassion. They do not say that you’re bad, ugly, or despicable. They say only that you are asking for something they cannot give and that they need to get some distance from you to survive emotionally. The sadness is that you perceive their necessary withdrawal as a rejection of you instead of as a call to return home and discover there your true belovedness.” 

source: Nouwen, H.J.M (1997). The inner voice of love: a journey through anguish to freedom. New York: Doubleday, p.12.

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