Caring In A World That Tells You Not To
It seems that everywhere I look these days, I see the words “don’t give a fuck”. From book covers and Instagram posts to t-shirts and posters. Everybody seems to believe that caring less will make you hurt less. That if something is bad for you, you just walk away, stay mad and “DO YOU, BOO”. Easy, right? Just leave it all behind and never learn to work with something instead of against it?
While I can understand how disconnecting could directly protect your emotions, I don’t believe that it really builds a full life.
What’s that saying? It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? I love that. I love the idea of taking the risk of getting hurt and having the chance to love someone - or something - fully and to find out if it creates happiness or hurt. I love the full, emotional, passionate adventure that comes along with giving a shit.
Don’t get me wrong - there are times you need to walk away and truly protect yourself. There are situations where being friends with someone does more harm than good, where relationships are abusive or not good for your mental health, where you just. need. to be. alone. But, in my opinion, even in those situations it does not mean you can’t care. I have walked away from people I loved more than I ever had before, I’ve left friends behind that weren’t treating me the way I deserved to be treated, but I never stopped caring about any of them. I care about the people who love me, the ones who hate me and the ones that are somewhere in between.
I think that a lot of this new habit of shutting down or disconnecting, comes from fear. The fear that someone may not care back. The fear that if you care, it means that it creates something to lose. That there may not be equal effort coming back in your direction when you seem to be putting so much out.
But is that what we do things for?
Are we kind just to receive kindness in return?
Do we help someone out only when they are able to help you back?
And are we really keeping score?
This is something I think about a lot. What if we simply made a commitment to be better no matter the outcome? In doing so, I think we start to care a lot more about the people and the things around us.
In my usual format I could sit here and write out in bullet-style a step-by-step of little things I do to work on caring. Instead, I would rather give you a little challenge.
Think of a situation where you may have distanced yourself a little bit because you weren’t sure where you stood with another person. You got scared that they didn’t care about you, so you quickly stepped back and decided to shelter yourself in some way.
Now think on that person - or thing - and breathe in the discomfort of how it makes you feel. Hold that breath and really feel how difficult it is and feel whatever hurt you’ve previously felt about it. As you breathe out, try to picture that resentment you’ve built up around the situation leaving your body with your breath. Keep doing this until you feel like you’ve breathed out every thought of anger you have wrapped around that situation.
As you’re doing this, you are creating room for the positive feelings and the ‘care’ to come back in. It doesn’t change whatever has happened in the past, but it gives you the peace to be able to look at it differently. It gives you the patience to keep doing kind things for a person that may not have necessarily ‘worked’ for it but deserves it; simply because they are human.
You can then start to look at that person/situation and think:
“This is what has happened. This is where I am now; I am still okay. I am choosing to still care. And that is okay.”
This is what I’ve been doing. At first it felt so strange and so “hippy-dippy”. But let me tell ya, I’ve worked through a lot of shit this way. There are a lot of relationships in my life that require some work and are in need of some attention. This is my first step at doing my part and finding peace in how they are. There are people I am hurt by; and I love them. There are parts of my job that I dread regularly; I’m learning to not let those parts mean I have to quit. There are situations that push buttons and demand to make me angry or resentful; I’m learning to care about the challenge.
I am simply learning to stay soft in a world that will naturally try to hurt you. I’m committed to staying compassionate in the hardest moments.
Life may be simpler if we could shut off our emotions and depend entirely on ourselves. But man, would that ever be lonely.