Perks from Jerks

Be kind—everyone is fighting a tough battle. ~Plato

This quote reminds me of a story about a man going through his day irritated by everyone he meets. As his bitterness peaks, someone gives him magic glasses that reveal the inner lives of the people he so harshly judged. Gazing behind one person’s appearance he saw, Her husband died suddenly. Another, A father of three out of work for months. And another, Just diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Those insights changed his judgmental attitude to a more compassionate one, his heart opened and his own troubles came into manageable perspective. Remarkably, scientific research tells us that if he continues on his new course he will be happier, healthier, and he just might extend his life. Here are a few tips about how to cash in on those perks.

1. Try not to make exceptions. It’s easy to be compassionate toward your best friend, but not the jerk you work or live with. But the jerks are the ones who sap our energy and imprison us emotionally.

2. Listen to the experts. Contrary to our belief, people who have the guts and self-confidence to practice compassion tell us it feels great, and studies confirm they are correct.

3. Read the opening story and enter into your imagination. For the next week, start each day by putting on your magic glasses that vividly reveal the hidden lives of everyone you see. As images of their tough battle with fear, confusion and suffering come into view, say “Hmmm…just like me.” The more you practice, see if those emotional knots inside yourself aren’t replaced by a lighter mood and greater satisfaction.