Inspiration

Cultivating Compassion: Good, Enough

A young person, mid-twenties, whom I accompany as a soul-friend asked, “You’re saying it’s possible I’m good enough just the way I am? That’s hard for me to believe. How come we never hear that message?” That conversation was two years ago during a telephone spiritual guidance exchange. I have not forgotten the question or my response.

Outer, external voices seek to influence and define our inner reality, informing us how we think and feel, what we expect and desire. We receive messages about how to appear through the way we dress and what we say, and even where our social action should—or shouldn’t—be placed. Images, words, and encounters can come from the media, strangers, or people we share a home with. The truth is, most of these words do not ring with accuracy. No one can define our inner reality, our own lived experience. It is a form of abuse when this occurs—a stealing of another person’s unique identity, personality, and a loss of the opportunity to validate dreams, hopes, fears, or life-given purpose and gifts.

Spiritual direction or spiritual guidance is a place and time to validate, explore, and discover the powerful human experience of connection, healing, and love.

That evening on the telephone I encouraged, “Perhaps you are good enough. Just like this, right now. You are, and I am. We all are. No matter the circumstance. Certainly we can always be better, and there is value in striving for more. But, today, right now, maybe you are good, enough.” With this particular seeker, questions about God or the Sacred Other was not part of our conversation. A deep sense of judgment and abandonment had created an angry soul-wound. My role was to put skin on compassion and care.

A few days after the conversation, I recalled “Wild Geese” a favorite poem by Mary Oliver from Dream Works (1994). Her opening lines shocked me. I invite you to tumble Oliver’s insight into your heart and body:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

It is time to announce our place in the world, invite others in out of the cold to break bread, gather at our table, in our communities, at the workplace, in our schools, places of worship, and in our sacred circles. There is enough when we share with love. Let us love what we love, and love one another with welcoming presence. We all belong. This starting place is good, enough.

Reflect

  • Do I give myself permission to love what I love, feel what I feel?
  • Who can I invite in out of the cold to join me at my table?
  • What healing and hope can emerge through my heart of compassion and thanksgiving?
  • Am I good, enough?
  • Do I know when to say, “enough.”

— Pegge Erkeneff,
Excerpted from Listen: A Seekers Guide to Spiritual Direction, April 2012, vol. 6.2, published by Spiritual Directors International, http://www.sdiworld.org.

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