Today a cheerful little colleague of mine felt the need to tell me of how much she thought I had changed over the past years. She said that when we first started working together she wasn’t sure whether I even liked her. To her I appeared quiet and reserved and didn’t respond much to her at all, like I had put up a façade. Now she feels that I am so much more confident and open, and we have actually grown quite close.
My heart both hurt and rejoiced while listening to her. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t get on with her at all back then. She was like a whirlwind that had lost it’s quiet inner core, something that is really difficult to deal with as a solid introvert like me. Yet, over the past years I have warmed to my surroundings, gained my confidence, had grown up. My colleague on the other hand had noticeably calmed down and one day we happened to meet at a level that we both felt comfortable at. I now lovingly call her “Chiquita” because she not only stems from Brazil but is also much older than me albeit looking half my age. It hurts me to think that my behaviour might have upset her back then.
Some say that people never change. And it may be true that the essence of a person, their genetic blueprint, always stays the same. However, on a behavioural level, or even from heart level, we are able to change, adapt, learn, adjust and warm, as well as harden, to our surroundings, depending on what we encounter.
Having analysed the development of compassion over the past year (read “Compassion in Practice“), wondering whether compassion can be learned, I grow more and more confident in my thesis that compassion grows together with your heart: the more you nurture it, the more it will grow. As long as you remain true to yourself and respect your surroundings you have as much the chance to change for the better and develop compassionate values as anyone else, regardless of their childhood issues or “wrong” upbringing.
Who decides what’s right or wrong anyway? What norms are we measuring society with? Wouldn’t we all be much happier if we had the chance to develop according to our own soul’s calling instead of letting society tell us which of our behaviour is acceptable and which is not? Just don’t go about hurting others and cause damage. What I’m much more referring to is the gender and age specific stereotyping which is probably enough to destroy compassion for self and others even in those with the best upbringing and early childhood experiences.
Life has so much to offer, why don’t we let it? Why won’t we learn to let life guide us and let our heart decide what’s good for us? Speak up for yourself, especially if you are not being respected as the magnificent human being that you are. Apply some common sense. Anger and spitefulness won’t get you anywhere. Whatever you gained by force or took without permission from another was never yours to start with and will only ever bear a negative memory. Happiness won’t settle until you follow the true calling of your heart. So whoever you are, whether you are already following your heart or have served many sentences, you can change direction any time.
And as I watch the big orange sphere of the sun disappear behind the horizon, I am filled with a deep sense of connection to everything around me. I feel truly grateful for my life and the many opportunities that came my way and shaped me into the person that I am now as well as the many versions that I resembled in the past. Only you will know who you want to be. Who will you be tomorrow? The choice is yours.