I have a goal. I want to be able to look at myself, with all my faults and shortcomings, and say to myself, “that’s my friend.” But like any goal, there are obstacles. Mine include a list of faults that could fill up this page without any effort. Most of the time I try to overlook them because if I engaged with them I wouldn't have time to do anything else. I mean, this list has been growing since childhood when I was indoctrinated with the “not good enough” program. Because of the slippery slope that the mind likes to travel, I didn’t recognize that this programmed energy was building momentum year after year until well into my adulthood. Basically, my entire persona was built around trying to hide that painful belief. Yet, once in a while, an aspect of it would rear its ugly head larger than life and I was left no choice but to deal with it. Eventually, I discovered that many of my dreams were built, not on my truest desires, but on ideals and behaviors that everyone would like. Then, one day, a “holy shit” moment of realization came over me and I understood that trying to be good enough for everyone was not only exhausting and self defeating, but it was also impossible! In reality, chasing such total acceptance only set me back because it inevitably backfired and sometimes made things worse. How could everyone like me when I didn’t even like myself?
Eckart Tolle calls this wounded energy the pain body. Apparently, we all have one, and part of the spiritual path seems to be about accepting it. Seems crazy doesn't it? Accepting a component of yourself that you don't even like!
And therein lies a big part of the problem, judgment; that superficial view of someone (could even be yourself) that is (to some degree) unacceptable in the eyes of the one judging.
I’ve been told that I am one of the least judgmental people that anyone has met. I’m seriously good at accepting people as they are without thinking that they should act or be like anyone else. It’s not even an effort. However, it appears that I have reserved that judgmental nature almost solely for myself. Let me give you an example.
One time I had a member of the Latin Kings street gang on my massage table for treatment. Yes, I thought it was odd too, but he came as a referral so I welcomed him into my space. I didn't know anything about the Latin Kings in particular. I just knew that they were a well-known gang.
As the knots melted and his muscles relaxed from the massage, a dialogue between us began to unfold. He shared with me things I never would have expected. In doing so, I discovered a very gentle man beneath the exterior. In fact, so much warmth and light emanated from him that I was instantly endeared to him and wanted to know more about him and how he handled his life as a gang member.
Turns out, that among the many things he had regretfully done, his biggest regret was that he had killed seven people. But being the father of an eight-year-old boy now he wanted nothing more than to get out of the gang and live life with his son in peace. Problem was, there were rival gang members who wanted him dead. Killing him would increase the power, respect, and influence they had in their own gang. He felt doomed to a life where he would always be on the run if he had a life at all.
As I listened to his story, I felt the sorrow, regret, and deep emotion behind his desire to change. I realized that I was in the presence of someone being truly transformed, like a caterpillar to a butterfly. His inner transformation felt so huge that I could almost see his light filling the space around us. He shared what he could about his lifestyle with a measure of depth that I had only known from intimate friends. He spoke of the new self (my words, not his) that he had become inside but struggled with expressing it on the outside.
As he continued to open, amazing energy of unconditional Love filled the room and a deep sense of compassion swept over me. We remained silent for the rest of his treatment.
I never saw him again but knew that if, by the grace of God, he somehow found his way home (in the deepest sense) that I might one day even call him my friend. After all, he opened me to understanding the deepest meaning of a lesson which I had pondered for years; a lesson for which I will be forever grateful: "Judge not lest ye be judged."
I had to wonder, if I could find such compassion for this man who had transgressed so many inner and outer laws, then why did I have such contempt for myself? Why did I have such a hard time giving myself the same compassion I shared with him? I look forward to the day when I can look at that self, smile, and say “That’s my friend.”