The curse of the blessed

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There is a young woman at work, let’s called her Blessed Bess. She’s been blessed with intelligence, an engaging personality, a loving husband, a big loving family, and two healthy kids. She has mentioned when describing her life how blessed she feels. Fair enough. Gratitude is a much more attractive attitude than entitlement. Yet, when she talks about being blessed, it sounds more like bragging and lacks any compassion or understanding for people who may not be as “blessed.” For example, when people are talking about feeling low or depressed, she will chirp in, “I’ve been very blessed, I’ve never experienced that.” Or if people are relating the strained and painful family relationships in their lives, she’ll add “oh, that’s too bad. I have a great family. There’s so many of us, on the weekends we just swarm all over each others houses. It’s great.” There’s a slight tone of pity when people speak of their problems, because she just doesn’t understand them because she’s so “blessed.” Can you tell I find her slightly annoying?

A couple of weeks ago, one of her children suffered a seizure. No doubt, it was scary for Bess, and she’s rightfully concerned for her child, but she’s completely falling apart. She’s been unable to come into work since it happened two weeks ago. At first, it was because, as suggested by the doctor that the child should be watched closely. Then she had to take the kid to a series of doctor’s appointments. Now, she says she has to be close to her kid’s school in case she has another seizure and needs to be picked up from school. When you speak to her the formerly cheery, overly confident Bess is now a sleep-deprived, anxious mess.

That’s the problem with being blessed, with being really, really fortunate – when the fall comes, it comes hard. For some reason, she thought she was going to dodge some of the basic sufferings we all have to endure – that everything was going to remain perfect. Because her children had been healthy up to this point, she thought they should always remain healthy. When we have this attachment to how things should be, we are setting ourselves up for suffering. For many of us, things never quite match up to that picture, so we may end up depressed because things didn’t turn out the way we wanted. But, for those who had everything they wanted, they dreamed about, when it starts to reveal its true nature as an illusion, as temporary, it can be shattering.

I’ve always struggled with compassion for people like Bess who brag about their good fortune. And Bess has confused pity for compassion. So, perhaps today’s lesson, boys and girls, is when we can recognize the suffering of others, compassion can grow in our minds. If not, not so much.

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9 responses »

  1. “For some reason, she thought she was going to dodge some of the basic sufferings we all have to endure – that everything was going to remain perfect.”

    this is the shit of it all as far as I can tell = underneath the self medicated angry fear based whirled that we are all hoping to avoid is a grieving at the loss of things that “could have been” which we all share.

    to sum degree we are all grieving the loss fairness are a certain goodness about the world that we think “should be” rather than taking on the imperfection of our own minds with love and compassion. real alley tea goes down a lot smoother with sum clear thinking = the truth will set us free – but it is also probably gonna hurt like hell.

  2. Good parable, it teaches an important lesson.

    Great Blog, and I love your template — I’m pretty partial to it too, lol.

    Mind if I blogroll you? I enjoy your writing and want to keep up on it.

    take care,

    Greg

  3. Thanks. If we keep our eyes and hearts open, opportunities for bringing the dharma home are all around us.

    Please feel free to blogroll me, if you don’t mind me blogrolling you. I enjoy your blog too. Yours is much more simple and elegant, while mine tends to be a bit more messy – like my life. Yet, they both arise out of the dharma . . . and the same WordPress template. 🙂

    Mary

  4. I’m no Buddist. But I am an acrobat (one who is afraid of bats). It is a daily struggle for me, so other bumps in the road don’t bother me like they would a non-acrobat.

    Oh ya, I’m also afraid of bat-like people as well.

    Thanks for your recent comments.

  5. Please add me to your blogroll. Thank you for the compliment — I’ve made a stylistic decision to keep the entries short on my blog. I like your style here, its very real and honest, not so messy.

  6. Reading this over, I don’t see where I said “I told you so”. My point was that if we hold the expectation that everything is going to be perfect forever, that when things don’t turn out so perfectly we suffer a lot more than if we recognized that shit happens, even to us.

    And, I’m happy to report her daughter has been seizure free for almost two years now. So, Bess has gone back to her mostly happy breezy self and I’m happy for her.

  7. reading this over I found I could relate to Bess even more ~ like a god realm type existence = all produced phenomena are impermanent ~ or maybe put another way ~ even in the god realm there are bats.

    i on the other hand require narcotics to go back to my former breezy self ~ otherwise no deal.

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