Recently the conversations in our A Course in Miracles classes have focused more on taking action than ever before.
The Course says that when we change our mind, we change the world. In other words, when we’re rooted in compassion, kindness, understanding, forgiveness and other forms of love, we have a more peaceful life, and we impact others with our peace as well.
We can literally think and pray our way to a better life.
But we also have hands and feet and ears and a voice. What do we do with those?
How can we voice our disagreement with ideas, but not with people?
How can we extend peace when we hear people insult themselves or another?
How can we have a productive conversation with a loved one who has different beliefs than ours?
How can we take action at a public hearing or protest and be true to our spiritual teachings?
How can we act from a loving heart rather than a fear-based ego?
I’ll explore these questions in the next few weeks, but let’s start with a common situation that a Miracles student suggested:
You’re out for lunch with a friend, and she starts telling you how awful her life is. Her boss is against her, her husband won’t do his share of work around the house, her mother-in-law is interfering with how they raise their kids. She goes on and on.
How do you let her know you care without getting trapped in the drama?
Here are responses from the fear-based ego’s playbook:
- “Oh, that sounds awful. I always knew that boss of yours was trouble. And your husband’s dirty socks….I know exactly what you mean. But you think THAT’s bad. Let me tell you about what I’M dealing with!”
- “Life sucks, doesn’t it? It’s always one thing or another. Just when you think a problem’s finally off your back, something else shows up. I guess that’s how life is.”
Is there value in making misery a competition or in joining with another’s pain and suffering? I suppose, if you can make it so extreme that you finally laugh about it and let it go.
But often that’s not the outcome. Instead of releasing frustration, focusing on the misery gives it roots, then waters it and showers it with fertilizer. And if you join in weakness and fear in another, you’re keeping yourself stuck there as well.
So what can you do instead? How can you show empathy without getting drawn into the quicksand? A Course in Miracles says:
“…if you will merely sit quietly by and let the Holy Spirit relate through you, you will empathize with strength, and you will gain in strength and not in weakness.”
What does that look like?
Your friend is complaining. You silently ask the Holy Spirit to enter into this conversation, helping guide your words. And you say something like, “It sounds like there’s a lot on your plate. I know you can handle it, though.”
And then you change the subject.
No feeding the drama. Instead, you’re reinforcing your friend’s abilities. You’re affirming the light in her, whether she can see it or not.
If she’s committed to misery, she may keep bringing the conversation around to hardship, no matter how many times you move in another direction.
If this happens, stay connected to the light.
“You know, you’re stronger than you think you are.”
“I’ve known you for a long time, and you’ve always found ways to handle challenges.”
“Did I ever tell you how much I appreciated the help you gave me a couple weeks ago?”
You’re not trying to talk your friend out of her pain or ignore it. You’re simply reminding her of her strengths.
It seems simple—and it is—as long as it doesn’t trigger fear in you and pull you into anger or frustration. Remember that it’s not your job to fix her or make her “get” it. Entrust that miracle to the Holy Spirit.
Your job is just to do and say the things that reinforce the light in her rather than joining with the darkness.
That, says the Course, is showing true empathy. And it’s something we can all do every day.
Debra Engle is the author of The Only Little Prayer You Need and Let Your Spirit Guides Speak. You can find her on Facebook and at debraengle.com. Listen to her podcasts at sacredstoriesmedia.com.