My first name is actually Veronica (long story as to why we went with Danielle.) Naturally, images of Jesus and Veronica fascinate me.
As Christ carried the cross to his crucifixion, Veronica was overcome with compassion and stepped out of the crowd to wipe the blood and sweat from his face. Miraculously, a perfect impression of Jesus’ face was left on her shawl — which became known as the Veil of Veronica.
There are many depictions of the Veronica and Christ moment. Some are heavier than others. The church I went to as a girl had a very dramatic edition: Veronica is completely distraught. Weeping, she is on her knees at Christ’s bloody feet, as if pleading with him. She is out of her mind with agony.
I was thirteen when I stood in front of that painting and really took it in. My eyes filled with tears. I looked up at Veronica and whispered to her, “Get.up.”
I just wanted her to be…more helpful.
. . .
As a female, emotional creature, I habitually empathize with the pain of others. The Veronica moment planted a question that I’d be asking for years:
Do I have to feel your pain in order to help ease your pain?
And, if I guard myself against your suffering, am I less useful? If I want to detach from your pain, am I less loving? If I think, “I’m glad I’m not going through that”, am I cold hearted? If I’m grateful for my strength or good fortune in comparison to your so-called weakness or misfortune, does that make me…just secretly horrible?
I asked my shrink once about his suffering over the suffering. I’d just had one of those hot teary cries, where after you blow your nose and dry your face on your sleeve, there’s a very soft pause. “How the fuck do you do this every day?” I asked him, laughing. “I’m an intimacy junkie,” he said. Right. Intimacy. Suffering. Heavenly. Worth it. Worth it to FEEL.
CAN YOU EASE SOMEONE ELSE’S SUFFERING…WITHOUT SUFFERING MORE? IS IT POSSIBLE?
Here’s what I know now:
That means I will feel your pain. If I did not feel your pain I’d be a narcissist or a sociopath. I’ll choose real love any day.
Some of us have very broad definitions of “what we love” (i.e I LOVE THE WHOLE ENTIRE COMPLETE UNIVERSE). Some of us have narrower parameters (i.e. I just like to love the people who make me feel good). Bottomline: If you’re a healthy being, you’re going to suffer when who/what you love suffers.
So, how to help the people suffering without it taking you down? Keep this in mind:
- There will always be suffering, the trick is to not suffer over the suffering. – Alan Watts. Leave it to a booze-loving Zen buddhist Englishman to put it straight. Translation: Life can suck, often, don’t make it suck more than it needs to.
- Fact: You being sick doesn’t help others get well. You being poor doesn’t help anyone to be more prosperous. You being strong, healthy, living in abundance is very, very helpful to the collective. So please, be well, be radiant, be rich, be famous, be super-human — be what feels good. Do NOT go hungry or dim your light to “be of service to the world.” That just adds to the suffering.
- You’re an individual within the collective. Duality. Non-duality. Both. Someone’s mental illness is not your mental illness. Their threats do not need to be your triggers; their choices are not your karma. Send them love, not suffering over their suffering. Send them light, not worry. Send them respect for the journey they have chosen — it’s not your journey.
- Not everyone is helpable. When you are “trying” to being of service to someone — from paying for groceries, to literally trying to save their life — you have to leave a lot of room for cosmic mystery. Purification, karmic rectification, teaching, blessing. You don’t know. Let it go.
- Pleasure is healing. Light workers, entertainers, creatives, healers, feelers — fuel UP. You’ve got to know what keeps you well, MORE than well — strong, vital, lit up, in love, curious. Do that, please — your joy and health (not your guilt) are exceedingly more helpful.
. . .
I recently came across a Jesus & Veronica metal carving for sale from an old church. Veronica is standing up straight, gazing at Christ, offering him comfort. She is embodying strong, active compassion. That piece is hanging in my office now, reminding me to be as well as I can possibly be so that I can look you in the eye and say, “I see you. I feel you. I’m here to help.”