In my last blog, I wrote of my transformative experience in a Native American sweat lodge with the Lakota tribe. It was an incredibly special day that I will always be grateful for. I learned many powerful things about myself and life in general and I received several revelations that Sunday but there was one thing that has stuck out in my mind since then. During one of the breaks between sweating ourselves into enlightenment, the Chief spoke extensively of the importance of interdependence and operating from a place of compassion and cooperation verses competition and comparison. The ideal makes perfect sense because the former neutralizes the latter in every foreseeable way.
Unfortunately in this overworked, high-strung world that seems to run on perpetual insecurity, scarcity and narcissism, the idea of relying on each other without judgement on either side feels almost like societal betrayal. Consider the amount of revenue that advertising turns over that supports the above statement. Millions of dollars are spent to convince you, blatantly or insidiously, that you are worthless without any given product. This creates the problems of a false sense of superiority and increasing insecurity because if I have this product, it means that I’m worth more than you, giving me a feeling of fabricated power over you. That mindset causes us to forget how much there is to gain when we stop competing against and comparing ourselves to one another and start honoring our own worth as well as others and start sharing what we have and what we know with one another.
I want to make one thing clear before I go any further. I am not in any way against healthy competition and healthy comparison. There is nothing wrong with seeing how we can challenge ourselves and each other to improve by looking at what someone else is doing and how they are doing it. Competition and comparison become unhealthy when they start being used as a measuring stick of our self-worth and self-esteem.
Here is an example: when I work out, I am constantly watching and surveying other guys, mainly those who do bodybuilding, to see what they are doing, what muscles they are working and how they work those particular muscles (and if they’re attractive, it’s a bonus but not the point). I compare what they are doing to what I do to make myself better and get more out of my work out and sometimes I’ll even ask them questions and get their insight on diet and exercise. It can be rather easy, as well as unrealistic, to try and compare myself to bodybuilders, get insecure and start putting myself down for not looking like them. That may be exaggerated but it happens all too often and sometimes we are not even aware that we are doing it.
Like so many other things, compassion has to start with ourselves. We must accept ourselves as we are in the present moment and we must be kind to ourselves while doing so. Those amazing athletes work hard for their results. It wouldn’t make any sense to try to compete with them at their level because I know I can’t and they know I can’t. Given some time and proper training, maybe that would change. But I do not hold that against myself and allow that fact to wreck havoc on my psyche.
The truth is we are all better and worse than someone at something. Those same bodybuilders may not be as good at public speaking or writing as I am but it doesn’t negate their worth or mine. One day, they may even see me and study me in the same fashion that I study them. But that’s how cooperation works. I respect their worth and intelligence and they respect mine. And even if they didn’t, their lack of compassion is not my responsibility, problem or karma.
And that is the magic of cooperation and compassion. There is no need to envy you and/or disrespect myself because I don’t have what you have. We all have the capabilities to do and be anything we want to do and be and if we don’t have the necessary information we need to obtain our goals, it is guaranteed there is someone who does and would be willing to share what they have and what they know with you. We need each other and everyone has something important and individual to share with the world and we are better for that interdependence. That is how bonds are formed and relationships are created and ultimately, that is how the evolution of humanity is cultivated.
Photo Source: Jenipher Wymer