Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
I watched and listened to and Demi Lovato’s performance on the Grammy Awards the day following the performance. Listening to the lyrics, the simple music accompanying her voice, and feeling the depth of the emotions as she sang, transported me back to a time in my life when I felt the isolation, desperation, and separation that she so courageously expressed in her performance. Her very survival of an overdose and the subsequent bare honesty with which she expresses her feelings in that song, written prior to that event, are worth our compassion and reflection.
I was recently talking with someone about addiction. Although I believe, as Richard Rohr has asserted and discussed in a recent series in his Daily Meditations, all are addicted to something (habits of minds, ways of doing things, substances, a job, etc.*), the conversation was about nicotine. At one point in the conversation it was asserted by the person with whom I was speaking that I couldn’t possibly understand addiction and that reading a certain book might help me better understand it. As I continued to reflect on this conversation, I recalled Ms. Lovato’s poignant performance, and my experience that many people don’t understand depression, either.
It’s easy to look at someone like her and think that perhaps she “has it all” and wonder how could she possibly find herself in such a dark place. I’m quite certain there are many who knew me during the period in my life and might have had similar thoughts, had they known of my condition at the time. Even those closest to me didn’t understand. I was quite adept at being the person I thought I had to be to remain successful in performing my job responsibilities and parenting my children.
I write today to remind everyone that we have no idea what is going on in someone – anyone – else’s life. Even those we may live with or are closest to day-to-day may be struggling within themselves with thoughts, feelings and forces unknown to those of us who are “on the outside”. Can’t we begin to extend that kind of awareness to everyone we see, pass on the street when we are walking, or observe doing something seemingly unconscious behind the wheel of a vehicle? A practice of compassion and acceptance can go a very long way in our very divided world. In fact it can, quite literally, change it!
We tend to judge, often harshly, those who are different or behave in ways that we don’t understand or necessarily appreciate. And yet, if we were watching ourselves in those moments of judging others, I wonder how we might feel about the person we are watching. I feel it is so very important to remember that we are all walking the same ground on this planet at this time.
The complexities of living in this world – different places and societies – cannot be understated. Addiction and depression have their roots in our attempts to “fit in” to what we have been shown or taught is the “way to be” if we are to survive or get ahead. Living up to what becomes our individual expectations of ourselves can be, and often are, impossible. This, by itself, is a sad commentary on who we are collectively, isn’t it?
The courage to be the beautiful individual that each of us is, is something that some of us seem to have more of than others. And then again…do they really? Or are they trying to make it appear that they do…as I did and so many of us try to do. Often it takes a crisis for us to wake up to our true and authentic selves and begin living fully into who we are, without fear.
May we practice a deeper approach to offering kindness to every single person we encounter in our journey of each day. May we also remember that each of us has impact – with every word, and in our behavior – on the whole of our experience. Choose to be negative, judgmental – that is a contribution. Choose to be positive, kind – that is a contribution.
If you didn’t see Demi Lovato’s performance at the Grammy Awards Sunday evening or online since, see if you can sit quietly and listen deeply and then check in with yourself to see how you feel. You can also see the video embedded in a well written piece on the performance in an article published at The Atlantic.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
– Chief Seattle
*these represent my interpretations of what Fr. Rohr intimated in his series on addictions.