Paisley Park is in your heart
August 28, 2009 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Do you have a soft heart? How did you get one?

I really want a "soft heart." It's a little poetic, I know, but I can't think of a better way to express it. You meet those people with a soft heart and you just...know. They are inviting, non-judgmental, and just love very purely.

There is nothing better in this world than a soft heart. Do you have one? How did you get it? Were you born with it? Was it a conscious development?

I used to have a softer heart, I think. And I can remember times when my heart was very soft. A few years ago I had these surgeries and basically felt like I was dying. My heart became so soft. I wanted it to stay like that so badly. It sort of scabbed over though. Is there anyway to get it back?
posted by milarepa to Grab Bag (40 answers total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
I've been told I'm one of those people. I couldn't really tell you how to be one, except to be emphatic with everyone.
posted by cobain_angel at 12:59 PM on August 28, 2009

I've found that if you're able to go easy on yourself, admit when you're wrong, and hang out with people who aren't fighty or judgmental, it helps a lot.
posted by kathrineg at 1:04 PM on August 28, 2009

I don't think I'm one of those people, but some of the best advice I've ever gotten in my life came from a former boss. We were having the standard all-staff meeting, wherein everyone basically gathered around to get updated on what was going on with our (small) company. And this very serene, Buddha-like man gently suggested that we all remember to treat one another in the spirit of lovingkindness. Simply remembering that has kept me cool-headed, at least, through many things.

(It was a super-hippy company, so we were all gathered in a central atrium, sacked out on sofas and on the stairs, in a semi-circle around the bosses. So it was also kinda like getting advice from your Dad, in the best way.)
posted by kalimac at 1:06 PM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]

Practicing Quakerism (the liberal unprogrammed kind) softened my heart. I've gotten really good at seeing other people's perspectives, or imagining the best in them. You can practice this kind of thing all day--the guy who cuts you off on the road, and instead of swearing you think, "He must really be in a hurry. I hope he gets where he's going safely." It can be a conscious decision about how you think and talk.

I made a conscious decision to stop indulging in mean-spirited gossip, and to avoid being judgmental, which I've long had a problem with. Sometimes I'd be thinking inside, "So and so will never make it work with this new boyfriend--she sabotages every relationship she gets into!" but I'd say out loud to my partner, "So and so's new boyfriend seems really nice. I hope it works out for them. Maybe we should invite them to dinner." Now I don't have those negative thoughts as often.

Being gentle with yourself, helps, too, as it becomes easier to be gentle with others when your expectations of yourself are realistic.
posted by not that girl at 1:10 PM on August 28, 2009 [42 favorites]

Forgive. Over and over again. Seventy times seven times.
posted by chalbe at 1:11 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

My heart softened a lot after having a child, and then even more when we lived in a cancer hospital surrounded by critically or terminally ill children. Then, after my daughter died, it hardened up again for a self-protective time until it started softening again.

What I mean is, going through a time of intense need where I relied not on the usual suspects but on people I never would have otherwise known with whom I had nothing in common other than our children being ill. I saw those people, carrying their own problems, open up and help ME. When I was in need, they offered help, without judgment or critique, they just helped. They went above and beyond. St. Jude CRH just DID that to the families there. Depending on people and in turn allowing them to depend on you, really softens the heart, IMO.

I tried to walk away with that lesson, and sometimes I think I have succeeded.
posted by bunnycup at 1:13 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Move out of the city if that's where you live. Take a genuine interest in other people. Get a cat or dog. Don't take it all so seriously.
posted by bunny hugger at 1:15 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've recently become more hard-hearted, and did this by no longer intensely considering how my actions might affect other people. I used to do this to an insane extent, imagining very vividly how the things I said and did looked and felt to others. Frankly, I'm glad I lost this inhibiting, time-consuming habit, but I imagine picking it up might make you soft hearted.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 1:16 PM on August 28, 2009

I've been termed this. Thinking about it, it probably comes with my philosophy (flawed or not) that everyone is trying their best. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I know I'm trying to do my best and if anyone questioned that it would really break my heart. So, I approach every one that way - that no matter what, they are trying their best. We all have talents and good attributes and we ALL have demons and fears. But in the end, we're all trying our best - whatever that best may be.

I remember having a somewhat strained relationship with my mother when I was younger and it followed me into adulthood. I was bitter about a few things and blamed her. But I looked at her one day and realized she was only human and that she was dealing with so much fear and anxieties and loneliness. It dawned on me that despite all that, despite her misguidedness, she was still trying so hard to be a good person, a good mother. She tried (and continues to try) to make things right. I know longer blame her and I am no longer bitter because, like I said, I'd hate for anyone to think poorly of me since I know that I'm just trying my best, even though my best sucks at times . . . it's all I've got.

We're all struggling - even though it may not appear so outwardly. Keep that in mind - that we all struggle. And despite it we are trying our best.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:17 PM on August 28, 2009 [22 favorites]

I'm like that. I've always just kind of been this way - optimistic, believing in people, kind of maternal and encouraging, kind of self-sacrificing, forgiving and nurturing. For me, it's definitely innate. I grew up a pacifist and even got bullied as a kid because of my gentle nature.

Try getting in touch with those qualities in yourself. The downside is it can be easy for some people to treat you like a doormat, but if you're confident, it's fine.

Living in a city doesn't prevent it. I'm a native New Yorker. :)
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:30 PM on August 28, 2009

I'm like that. My wife, only half-jokingly, tells me that I'm the woman in the relationship. I cry at every sad song or movie, I'm extremely sentimental about my children, etc.

For me, weirdly, I attribute it to a not-so-happy childhood, growing up with "you're not good enough, you'll never amount to anything"-type parents. I have no idea why I'm not a belligerent jerk.

Having children definitely helps; here is this little thing that is soooo perfect, and so utterly dependent on you for everything. And as they grow, you see the world through their eyes, which by default are optimistic (when a child is sullen or insufferable or miserable, look for a similar adult nearby), and it's all just so very good.

Taoism has also been a big part of my life for about 20 years. One of the central tenets is that nothing is broken, everything is just fine, the world operates the way it should (contrasted with Christianity, which says "you are broken and messed up, you need to be fixed," Taoism says "you're fine, chill out, nobody needs to save you from anything. deep breath, kid."). I strongly recommend Benjamin Hoff's "The Tao of Pooh," which I re-read about once every six months.
posted by jbickers at 1:40 PM on August 28, 2009 [8 favorites]

Also, just consciously try and make sure you learn from everywhere you can. It helps you to avoid becoming jaded. Each experience is individual, if when it rains, it pours, it's coincidental not the world against you/all_________ are not X. Mantras might help in this regard until they become natural.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:41 PM on August 28, 2009

Just another quick post to follow jbickers: I read the Tao te Ching in college (in a Chinese history course) and it really clicked with me because the core philosophy was almost exactly how I've always lived, so Taoism is a good suggestion.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:44 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some of the simple meditations in the Dalai Lama's The Art of Happiness have helped me become more empathetic (and generally happier).
posted by JeffK at 1:46 PM on August 28, 2009

I don't think I'm one of these people, though I wish I were. In my mind the best examples of such people in living memory are Thich Nhat Hahn and Mr. Rogers.

Here is a post I wrote about Taoism you might find helpful.

While a true sage does not contend I'm afraid I have to disagree with jbickers' recommendation. The Tao of Pooh grossly misrepresents the traditions it covers. What it refers to as Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism bear little more than a passing resemblance to the genuine articles. Read a few translations of the Tao Te Ching itself (link in above post).
posted by phrontist at 1:52 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Taoism definitely helped solidify this for me. So did appropriate anti-anxiety treatment, took a shroud of self-absorption right off my head, it did. "What would Jesus do" ain't bad either, if that's something you can digest better than the Tao.

Definitely practice forgiveness, gratitude, and thoughtfulness. Positive self-talk for you, and forthright communication for everyone else. Communicate your real feelings and don't be ashamed of them, no matter what. This means that you may be rejected and hurt by jacked-up meanies whom your openness intimidates or whom your vulnerability tempts, and it'll hurt BAD. They're meanies, after all. Soft-hearted people get their hearts squished easily, you know. But, I remain certain that it's worth it. The more love you give away, the more you have to give away, and it feels really good.

The hardest part is forgiving yourself your transgressions. Being a sweetheart doesn't mean you won't make mistakes and hurt people's feelings. It just means that you are truly, deeply, present and accountable for your part in their hurt, no matter what.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:55 PM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]

Write letters.

My girlfriend taught me this. She once said:

Why? Because I truly believe that letter writing is an important art form too soon diminishing in value. Letter writing gives us history, insight and a sense of belonging. It is the dance of words that conveys a message, a purpose... and reveals the passion of the written word with a direction and motivation lost in the technology of the electronic age.

They come from the heart, usually a soft one.

Don't judge.

Don't get angry. Love without distinction and forgive without remembering. Be always happy to see others. Seek love. Give a sweet disposition without condition.
posted by netbros at 1:57 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I found my soft heart through a mix of Buddhism and Pantheism. The world and everything in it is connected - even the asshole who almost sideswiped you and your slut of an ex - and should be treated as such. Care for everyone as you'd care for yourself. Consider the feelings and motives of others before you react.

I've become a more forgiving, friendly and understanding person. I used to be panicked, resentful with a chip on my shoulder. It really changed my life. All the anger and resentment just kind of drains away. The 'love one another' aspect sounds kind of dippy, but it turned out pretty awesome for me. It sounds like a lot, changing your whole outlook on basically everything, but it was like something clicked when I started reading. It was perfectly simple.

Good luck on finding your peace.
posted by caveat at 2:02 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think that not that girl's answer pretty much says it all. I can't top that, but to say it another way, something I strive for more and more as I get older is to be an empathetic person--not in terms of being a slave to the idea of what the neighbors will think, but in terms of being a sensitive person who truly cares about other people, and how my actions will affect them. Even if we aren't on speaking terms; even if the person has done something to hurt me; even if the person is a stranger that I will probably never see again. I try to treat other people with kindness and courtesy, to be slow to anger and quick to understand. There are tiny ways to do this every day--from holding the door open for someone with a bag of groceries to letting go of ancient grudges--and on a selfish level, doing small things to be kind to other people feels good. I think it's a good general principle to handle people with care, and expect the same from others in return.
posted by teamparka at 2:06 PM on August 28, 2009

To expand on the "Buddhism" answers: When I practiced meditation regularly, we did an exercise that involved extending compassion. You would pick 3 people: A friend, an "enemy", and someone to whom you had an "instrumental" relationship: A store clerk, a bus driver, etc. And then you would do your best to extend good will and compassion toward them. You would finish by extending that same compassion toward yourself. There are plenty of other forms that that exercise can take, though.
posted by mellifluous at 2:12 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Irony and gotcha are the zeitgeist of the time. To try to cultivate kindness and compassion, you have to be willing to go against the tide and foresake the pleasure of being better than the other.

I think humility is the common thread in the lives of people with compassion and empathy. As tempting as it is to blame or ridicule another, these people realize that life is short and that others are all deserving of compassion and respect. Maybe during your surgery you realized that you were just another vulnerable mortal and that we all need help from others.

One way to do it would be to find a way to ask for help from someone to learn the life stories of people who you think your better then. For example, here in San Francisco, we have the opportunity to meet homeless people in these city-wide initiatives, Project Homeless Connect. It's such a privilege to be able to listen to the real stories (not rants) of homeless people.

I'd also suggest you read the biography of your namesake, Milarepa, who was certainly among the most compassionate and humble person on the face of the earth.
posted by jasper411 at 2:13 PM on August 28, 2009 [7 favorites]

I've also been called this, and I think it's because compassion is something I value highly. I'm empathetic to animals and other people, and really want them to be happy and pain-free. Some of this comes by being able to fully name my emotions and let myself feel them- I think other people try to avoid sadness or anger, which makes it hard to be empathetic, and others are too slow to acknowledge joy or happiness in everyday moments. In response to sadness or anger, I do my best to act, whether that's to donate time or money, drop a note in the mail, or give someone a call during a week I know is tough. I really try to focus on what I can do for other beings (I say this because I am especially soft at heart for animals), and remembering that small things really can make or break someone's day, and ultimately, our life is made up of how we spend our days. Find a cause you're committed to and volunteer, or contact legislators/influential people, and be a great friend who wants the very best for people. Additionally, I think the idea of the meaning of nameste helped me and yoga as a whole; it's much easier to be calmer toward the world and feel things without being as overwhelmed when you're more at peace with yourself and understand yourself well.
posted by questionsandanchors at 2:20 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Read some Vonnegut. Cynicism and a soft heart are not necessarily incompatible - indeed, one is usually the result of the other.
Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'

posted by benzenedream at 2:39 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've heard an exercise similar to mellifluous's described. You start with the people it's easiest for you to feel warmth to, and work your way out to those you're indifferent or contemptuous toward. You think about what they might be feeling, why they might be feeling it, the character of your interactions with them.

Think about blame, will, influence, and responsibility. I think changing the way you view these in other people is essential (cuts to the essence of) compassion. Here is a relevant Thich Nhat Hahn quote:

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look into the reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.

Be earnest. Don't repel everything with a cool sheen of irony and sarcasm.
posted by phrontist at 2:41 PM on August 28, 2009 [7 favorites]

be emphatic with everyone

This is a really unfortunate typo, in that it transforms the intended sentence into its opposite. I'm certain that what cobain_angel meant was to be empathetic (or empathic) with everyone, not to assert yourself strongly.

Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, by Pema Chodron, is one of the best books I've ever read on the topic. Matthew Fox is also a go-to of mine: the book of his that's most strictly relevant is A Spirituality Named Compassion.

I find myself choosing anger, sourness, and judgment as stances toward the world fairly often, and in some ways I think that those are reflections of a child-deep idealism that people "should" be better, and in some ways I think that those stances help me be more effective as an advocate for the things I believe in. But the experiences that are most life-changing for me in regard to sparking the fire of compassion have been caring for people who are dying, both my own family members and others I've encountered in my volunteer work. Something to think about if you have time to give in that regard.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:47 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree a lot with not that girl's and Sassyfras' responses. Along those lines, I try to see the good intentions in the things that people do (especially when they are things that hurt me). I am always trying to further my ability to be truly empathetic with others, no matter what their situation. And this may sound a little odd, but because my job every day deals with being very focused on others and what they need, I have to work hard to pay attention to what I need as well. Taking care of myself allows me to have the foundation, the energy, and the space in my head that is required to be able to take care of someone else. When I don't take care of myself, I get a lot more cynical and impatient, more frustrated and irritated. Volunteering and/or doing for others is, by the way, an excellent way to keep your heart soft.

Also cats. You can't possibly feel anything but enveloping love when you have a sleepy cat crawl up in your lap and knead its claws in your delicate flesh while it falls blissfully asleep, even though your allergies are so activated you would normally want to bash yourself in the head with a rock. That feeling right there is one of my greatest sources of peace.

Also also, I wholeheartedly support the recommendations of reading Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron.
posted by so_gracefully at 2:57 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Know that the worst behaviors and actions emerge from deep and pervasive pain. Humanize the offender and have compassion for their suffering. And also, look out for your neighbor.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 3:08 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am a soft hearted hard ass. Or so I've been told. I think I naturally give everyone the benefit of the doubt the first time and start with the assumption that people are good before I turn hard ass. As soon as you betray my belief in your goodness, as soon as you intentionally try to screw me, as soon as you don't make an honest effort, you lose me fast. I consciously think there must be a good reason why that person needs to cute the line, or why that person needs to be helped. Then, if I find out otherwise, I will confront. My wife chides me because I am always giving money or something to people I don't know because they ask.

I think it is all about your own life's current circumstances and how much you can "afford" to be a softie. I also think if you want to be soft you can become tolerant and softer.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:57 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

i've been working on it my whole life and i'm not there. in my opinion, the hardest part is to not be selfish. if, when you meet someone, you hold their happiness and values on the same sort of balance as your own, they will be able to tell. we are all such machines of self interest most of the time.
posted by 256 at 4:02 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

Realize that every single person you meet—even that guy, the one who has everything together, who has everything he could possibly want, who is doing so much better at life than you—has a inside of him a secret that would destroy your heart, and make you weep.

It's really quite easy to empathize with the downtrodden and those who hurt you: their misgivings are simple and obvious: they feel the need to hurt someone, and that is everything.

But it's harder love and understand those who kind of, sort of, must not really, need the love another human being provides.

Lastly, I think is the most important thing I'll say here (sorry):

I have found that every kind of successful person had at some moment in their life a moment of supreme vulnerability, and it was their own reparations—how they dealt with the shock of the pain, the rawness of their suffering—that made them who they are, that made them able to persist despite the evil of this existence.
posted by trotter at 4:11 PM on August 28, 2009 [12 favorites]

Read some Vonnegut. Cynicism and a soft heart are not necessarily incompatible - indeed, one is usually the result of the other.

Seconding what benzenedream said, as I had a heartwarming experience discovering Vonnegut and he is an accessible and enjoyable place to start. Of the cannon, Breakfast of Champions features a Loving (if Bittersweet) Father sensibility I don't think anyone could object to.

I suffer from (I guess naturally) excess empathy, as it can lead in unbalanced extremes to feeling stuck--unable to make the small ethical sacrifices for a larger good, excess guilt, etc. This can ultimately lead me to bouts depression. On the plus side, I do not generally get into mefi comment wars.

With that in mind, I recommend simple meditation, perhaps seated on a cushion for ten minutes each morning. You can also use this approach for specific circumstances: when faced with a dilemma of "hard-heartedness," you may hold the point of contention in mind (without judging or trying to solve it) and simply sit quietly for ten minutes any time of day. If you like this, you can explore yogic teachings like laughing clubs or Anusara (personal endorsement here). Also, did you catch the Cuddle Party post? No personal experience--but looks pretty hilarious.

Lastly, work on your listening skills. [This is my learning curve.] Being overhasty to respond and react intellectually can get in the way of the natural human capacity for love--especially in a fiery online community like this one. One way: take a deep, conscious breath between the question and replying.

Oh, also: if you can, get a cat.
posted by JaiMahodara at 5:16 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm with JohnnyGunn. That's exactly what I was thinking as I read this question. I've grown much more softhearted over the years, especially since college, but if I don't believe that you're in fact doing the best you can, if I believe you're being hypocritical or deliberately using others or aggrandizing yourself at others' expense, my soft heart hardens.

Judgment is still a strong part of who I am—but I've learned to suspend it far longer than I ever did in my brash younger years. For years I walked around with a lot of anger toward the world, and while I carry some of that with me, one important skill I've developed is the ability to forget and let things go.

This was around the time my heart started to soften.

A lot of it had to do with just getting out there and living as an adult, with all that entails: standing by people in sickness, reading horrifying daily news stories, seeing friends and colleagues traverse rocky ground of their own. That'll soften your heart immensely toward some, while simultaneously hardening it toward others.

My work as a copy editor has changed me, too. I'm more deliberate in a lot of things now; I'm slower to jump to conclusions about the correctness of things written and spoken. I'm far more willing to swallow my pride and look things up, rather than assuming I know them already. I've in turn become much more of a relativist about others' mistakes. Some things just don't have a definite answer, or even matter very much in the grand scheme of things.

It still frustrates me when people who should know better get things wrong, but increasingly I've learned to find the humor in errors—even if it's a grim and dark humor concerning repeat grammatical offenders. But you only get there by seeing lots of errors and learning to deal with the feelings that evokes.

As a sub-editor, as the English perhaps more accurately call the position, you learn to shrug: You don't have the final say. The point at which you mark an error is the point where your duty ends, in all but the most pressing circumstances.

As I phrased it to a friend a while back, copy editors trade in small kindnesses (and small shamings, as needed). Are we, as a rule, more jaded and guarded than most? Oh yes. But—and perhaps this is because by definition, we're required to read and correct everything, rather than skipping over pieces whose ethos we don't agree with or whose authors are clearly addled—I think there are few who recognize more readily than my copy-editing colleagues that the news is printed in shades of gray, rather than straight-up black-and-white.

In this job, you learn to embrace dukkha, or brokenness. Indeterminacy. And I think that's definitely one way to a soft heart.
posted by limeonaire at 5:22 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Look at the people you encounter every day and try to really see them.
Don't just let them go past like faceless robots.
posted by exceptinsects at 5:54 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have made myself have a soft heart. I am gentle because I am secretly so cruel. I am deliberately kind because I am so judgmental. It's hard work to be mistrustful, to be judging everyone and guarding against them, to have such a chip on your shoulder as I have. So I go out of my way to try to be good to people. I'm not saying I'm good at it, that I'm consistent, or that I do much good to anyone, but it gives me peace and rest and joy. So I advocate stepping out of line to be nice.

I'm not telling you that it's a good idea to eat shit and smile. The hardest, most unpleasant people I've found have all been in so-called caring professions -- nurses, educators, those involved in social work. Their hearts were eaten up long ago by the effort of caring for people who will never be thankful, who will never be helped, who will never cease to need, need, and need from them. Myself, I just try to offer what I have. I'm in a profession where most people believe that I openly feast on the blood of the living, so it's doubly important to me these days.

The other day, I was researching in a family court, where lots of kids are parked in strollers or fidgeting in chairs while their harried parents are filling out frightening paperwork. One such little girl, a toddler at the throwing-stuff stage, threw her sippy cup out of her stroller. Her mother was busy with the probate clerk, and didn't see. I walked away from what I was doing to pick that sippy cup up and hand it back to her. She beamed. Her mother thanked me. Naturally the kid threw it away ten seconds later and started crying when nobody else stepped up. Nonetheless, to me right now, that is the only memorable thing I did all day.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:14 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think you have the most important ingredient which is the desire to be compassionate.

Teaching has certainly taught me a lot about empathy, caring and also how to set limits so you can still have your core self intact.

Kindness and weakness are not the same thing, so don't get them confused---I tell this to my students. As a teacher, I am on your side, and I want you to reach your goals, but I will not hesitate to fail you if you don't work. (Figure out your parameters, because others who are not compassionate will test them.)

I remember times when I was arrogant to my teachers when my own students do various things in the class that irritate me. I remember what it was like to hear the information for the first time. I tell them it took a while for me to understand the concepts, too. I often hear at faculty meetings "They should already know that" which betrays the teacher's arrogance, to my mind.

I've also learned that reacting angrily bonds you more to the person who is annoying you. That fifty people can show kindness, yet the one ass you met today has the potential to stay in your mind the strongest. Choose.

I've learned that I make better decisions from a position of calm rather than passion. If you can add humor to your language doors will open in every instance.

Also, with electronic media, throwing it against the wall certainly won't improve its performance. ;)
posted by effluvia at 7:11 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Experiment - successful. Experiment - FAIL.

I made a point to be ultra lovely for one year, just to see what might happen. Towards the end, I married my xtra excellent spouse.

Now, I'm a protective BITCH. I'm waiting to swing back towards loveliness.

In short, there may not be a long-term short-cut. I never predicted I would feel/experience backlash for being a mensch - but there you have it!

Proceed with caution. YMMV
posted by jbenben at 10:50 PM on August 28, 2009

You can practice this kind of thing all day--the guy who cuts you off on the road, and instead of swearing you think, "He must really be in a hurry. I hope he gets where he's going safely." It can be a conscious decision about how you think and talk.


After seeing the Dalai Lama, I decided to make a conscious effort to think of something truly good about every single person I see. Not necessarily because of anything he *said,* but that was the catalyst.

It was honestly a hard thing to start doing, but getting in the habit has honestly changed my life in the sappy hippy-dippy "let's all sing kumbaya" kind of way. One of the ways that I do this, that seems to be somewhat unique to me, is to remember that we were all born. For every one of us, the moment that we arrived into the world was a moment of sheer joy and quite probably one of the greatest moment of their parents' lives. We all come into the world welcomed with joy. We're all walking embodiments of love.

Also: practice forgiveness. I've been told that I'm too forgiving. I've also been termed "obnoxiously forgiving." I've had crap happen in my life, and yeah, there have been many soured relationships. But for my part - I hold no feelings of anger or resentment or bitterness towards anyone. There are people I've been close to who aren't in my life, and I know that most of them aren't interested in a re-kindled relationship, and I respect that. Also, I wouldn't necessarily become best friends with someone I've had a falling out with in the past. But I would absolutely accept an invitation to coffee with anyone from my past and sit down good-naturedly to enjoy a beverage with absolutely no agenda.

Know that the worst behaviors and actions emerge from deep and pervasive pain

This, this, a thousand times.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:53 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just pretend that you are softhearted. Keep pretending, and after some years, you will look back and see that you have indeed become softhearted.
posted by carping demon at 8:46 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I try to be softhearted and what has helped me might be kind of a falsehood, but I think it has some truth in it - people can't help the way that they are. With that, comes an understanding that people aren't evil to be evil, they don't cut you off because of you, it's because of them and where they are. Even most people that do bad things, don't do them because they chose to be bad - they did those things because that's they only choice they could make at the time.

Now some folks will say that a wo(man) is in complete control of her own actions, but are they? Really? Look at our little microcosm of - a place people come to help themselves change - it's littered with questions about how hard change is, how to do it, whey can't they do it, and so on.

I think most folks, me included, live unconsciously most of the time - going through the motions that have kept them going to the point they are now. This is not to say that people can't change and be better, but change, if it occurs - happens slowly and with such focused attention that everything else has to be put on autopilot.

Ror the Internet and it's endless forums, think about that person you are about to spew vitriol at - are you sure that they aren't wearing a diaper because they can't control themselves and the last actual person that they really talked to was their postman? I could see how a person in that situation would want to lash out at other people over the internet - and I let it go, and try to be kind.
posted by bigmusic at 5:04 AM on August 31, 2009

You don't have to be a Buddhist to appreciate the Metta Sutta.
posted by everichon at 12:12 PM on September 3, 2009

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