From time to time I see memes pop up on Facebook like these:
And I have a problem with them. Here it is: negative people are struggling people, hurting people and some of them are people suffering from mental illnesses like addictions and depression. If we just cut these people out of our lives it means we are cutting the very people out who need our love and compassion the most. Now, it is important to have people in your life who are inspiring and it’s important to ensure our own emotional wellbeing is protected. Spending time with negative people is hard and it can be draining. The solution is not to cut them out but to engage in self-care that will keep us well, even when being with difficult people.
You know, I have been the negative person that people avoid and it’s not easy. I was that person through some of the most difficult times in my life, when I was healing from trauma, when I was alone as a young mother, when I was suffering from depression and when I was grieving. These were the times when I needed people more than ever.
I have also been on the other side of the equation, and God knows I have not been perfectly compassionate towards the negative people in my life. I have made many mistakes and I’m sure I’ve caused them pain. I have spent too much time with them, not looking after my own wellbeing. I have judged them. And yes, at times I’ve avoided them. But I do my best to find space in my life for negative people.
This is what I’ve been practicing and perhaps you will find some inspiration in it. When I get together with negative people, I do my best to just listen. I don’t tell them how to get better, I don’t give advice (well sometimes I can’t help myself!) and I do my best to empathize. Sometimes I just get them to chat about things they are interested in or enjoy. Afterward, I give myself empathy or find someone who can empathize with me. I meditate, I do yoga. I look after myself. I don’t do this perfectly. I sometimes think I should be more forgiving, more loving but I don’t know how. So I work on it and find ways to connect with people, whether they are happy or unhappy. Every day I think of at least three people who are bothering me in some way, and I mentally send them love; visualizing them in a circle of light. I find little spaces in my life for difficult people. And yes, it’s true, sometimes I decide to limit the time I spend with them. But I keep reaching for more compassion, more empathy more love.
Here’s a meme I can get behind: