We like to understand things. We like to be able to explain things. It helps us feel connected and in some sort of control. But our understanding can be a shaky foundation. Sometimes we misunderstand. And sometimes we misuse our understanding as a stabilizer.
Just because we understand, explain, or connect something doesn’t make the “something” okay.
We can rationalize “I understand how they might respond that way,” and our understanding can help us be more aware of the dynamics of the situation. But our understanding doesn’t excuse inappropriate, insensitive, or immature behavior. Based on someone’s experiences, career, or upbringing, we can understand how someone could withdraw, but that doesn’t mean their disconnect and lack of compassion is okay. We might understand why someone is deceptive, but it doesn’t make the lying okay. Someone might have been raised with constant adoration and recognition for accomplishments; it doesn’t make that person’s pride okay. Someone might have been raised with harsh words or an entitlement to handouts. That doesn’t make it okay for someone to take out their anger on others or refuse to work.
I’ve recently noticed several people say something to the effect of, “Maybe they’re doing that because I…” And it’s okay to seek insight and take responsibility. But we should only take responsibility for what we have done, not put on the responsibility someone else needs to take for himself or herself.
We can have compassion for others without carrying the weight of everyone’s burdens. We can share life deeply with others and make an impact on people without feeling the need to control it all. We are not that powerful. We aren’t even that insightful.
Explore the tension between having enough compassion for someone to understand what’s happening in their life while not excusing them from.responsibility or, even worse, placing the blame on yourself.