Julia, our guest blogger, talks about compassion as part of her training for the Ann Arbor marathon. 

It started out great–and then, around mile 13, I had an unfortunate encounter with a 3-year-old cyclist and took a rather nasty spill.

I turned and headed for home, shortening my run to 18 miles and beating myself up with every step because I couldn’t seem to “run off” the pain. I got home in tears, and the reassurances of my parents (that NO, I hadn’t ruined my training and YES, I would be fine on race day) fell on deaf ears. I was mad, and that was that.

I talked to a friend of mine on the phone later that day–mostly because I needed a new audience to whom I could explain just how wimpy I was–and true to form, I launched into a tirade about my failed endeavor. My friend listened patiently, and when I finally stopped to take a breath, I heard her voice, quiet but firm, in my ear. “You know, I wish you’d be nicer to my friend,” she said. “She’s had a really hard day; her run didn’t go so well, and she could use some compassion.”

This request stopped me dead in my tracks. My first instinct was to be indignant–I could treat myself however I wanted!–but as I let her words sink in, I realized what wisdom she had spoken. I’ve always struggled with patience, and most often with myself. I have high standards and I don’t take kindly to being disappointed. But my friend’s suggestion that I show myself some care and respect has been running through my head ever since our conversation, and (shocker) I’ve decided that she’s exactly right. As poet Max Ehrmann wisely suggests, “Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”

I think it’s easy to take ourselves out of the human equation. When I think about “doing unto others,” I am not the first person who springs to mind. In fact, I am usually the LAST person who springs to mind–after all, it’s “others”, right? But patience and compassion are important virtues to master, and I can use all the practice I can get. I should probably start close to home so that when I deal with others, giving them the dignity and respect that they deserve is second nature.

In what ways can you show yourself compassion?

Read all of Julia’s posts about training for the Ann Arbor Marathon.