by Eileen Campbell
We often forget how similar we all are underneath our external appearances. It doesn’t matter what sex, age, race, upbringing, or religion – deep down we all want the same thing – to be happy and avoid pain and suffering.
When we remember that there is a spark of divinity in every one of us, it’s easier to refrain from criticizing or blaming someone because of their behaviour. Not that it’s any great surprise that we rush to judge others, since we’re quick to berate ourselves for failing to live up to our idea of what we think we should be. We give ourselves a hard time when we make mistakes and say and do things we wish we hadn’t done, or don’t say and do things it might have been better to have said and done. If we can’t be kind to ourselves, we’re unlikely to be kind towards others.
Each of us is on a path, and we can never know what someone else’s path is. If we think about our own lives, we know that through our many experiences we are constantly learning and changing. Events force us to change and grow. Poets, philosophers and mystics of many persuasions have portrayed the world as a school where we come as souls to learn. Others too are learning and changing just as we are.
The Native American saying, ‘Do not judge someone until you have walked a mile in their moccasins’, reminds us of the need to stop and reflect before we criticize or judge someone. How can we know the reasons for their behaviour unless we put ourselves in their shoes? Having empathy for others is not always easy, but what we can do is recognize that the divine spark is there in them, just as it is in us.
This doesn’t mean that we condone the other person’s behaviour, but it does mean that we don’t get caught up in a spiral of negativity. If instead we can cultivate empathy, through awareness and listening to their story, then compassion can be the result. This applies whether we’re dealing with our most intimate relationships, our work colleagues, our neighbours, or even strangers.
When we try to see something from another’s perspective, then we move closer towards tolerance and acceptance of difference. We begin to recognize our shared humanity, and the deep connection we all share, as different cultures in the past once did, and as indigenous societies still do today.
All the great humanitarians and teachers of different religious traditions have stressed the importance of compassion. The so-called Golden Rule of treating others as we would wish ourselves to be treated runs through all religions. ‘My religion is kindness,’ says the Dalai Lama. The Talmud, the Jewish Book of wisdom, claims, ‘The highest wisdom is kindness.’ Jesus told us to ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ The Koran asks, ‘Do you love your Creator? Then love your fellow beings first.’
The perceptive writer Aldous Huxley, having explored mysticism and altered states of consciousness, said on his deathbed, ‘Let us be kinder to one another.’ We may not be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, but when we recognize the divine spark within someone, we will naturally be kinder to them.
Eileen Campbell is a writer of inspirational books, including a successful series of anthologies described by the media as “treasures of timeless wisdom,” which sold collectively around 250,000 copies. She has studied with a variety of teachers from different traditions and brings a wealth of knowledge and life experience to her books. She is known for her pioneering and visionary career as a self-help and spirituality publishers, and has also written and presented for BBC Radio 2 and 4. She currently devotes her energies to yoga, writing, and gardening. She lives in England. Visit her at http://www.eileencampbellbooks.com.