This post originally appeared on September 16, 2015.
We have a tendency to feel bad in our society. We feel bad when someone falls down, has a bad day, gets sick, loses something. We somehow feel obligated to give an "I feel so bad for them" when we hear something has not gone as planned or something that is not what we feel is the best thing.
How's that working for you?
I have trouble with feeling bad. My problem is that I don't see the benefit feeling bad has on the world. If we are all connected, if we are all in this together, then how does you feeling bad help me? Help anyone? And further, who are we to decide what is the best thing for anyone? That the very thing we are feeling bad about doesn't turn out to be the very best thing that ever happened to that person?
Yes, I get the idea behind the sentiment. I get that when someone loses a loved one, when someone has a difficult day, when someone doesn't get the job/promotion, etc, it's not exactly kosher to jump for joy (perhaps in some circles...for those that truly embrace the 'every door that closes another one opens' philosophy). I would like to challenge the social norm, the knee jerk response of "Oh, I feel so bad for you."
Instead, I would suggest saying hello to what is, saying hello to the person, the energy, the spirit of the situation. Rather than feeling bad, let's go with honesty -- rather than simply falling back on the "I feel so bad for you" when you hear your brother's girlfriend dumped him, your neighbor lost the deal, your friend didn't get the job, go with "darn, I really liked her," or "that stinks you didn't get the deal," or "hey, how are you doing with it all?"
How much time do you spend during your day feeling 'bad' for someone when you hear something didn't go well? How many times do you notice yourself saying "I feel so bad for..."? How do you feel when someone feels bad for you?
My experience, when someone feels "bad" for me, I feel offended. I don't feel bad for me. It's my life and I'm doing the best I can in it -- feeling bad for me doesn't really help me in any way and in fact, it kind of invalidates my experience and what I'm working through, on, and toward.
So, here's my request: spend more time validating, more time seeing the possibilities, more time saying hello to the opportunity, spend less time feeling bad, less time invalidating the experience of another, and less time thinking the worst.
Life is full of ups and downs, as I know you already know. It's the ups and the downs that make it ours, that make our experience unique to us, that give our life individual meaning, that create the growth opportunities, that open the doors to so much healing. Feel bad for yourself, if you need to; all I ask is that the next time you react with feeling bad for me or someone else, maybe pause and consider what you really feel bad about and notice that instead of feeling bad there might actually be an opportunity to support, to grow, and to meet the next step with open arms.
As we do.
photo: Elizabeth Guilbeault