Compassionate Detachment

“Compassionate detachment is the ability to be present with a person while remaining separate from the outcomes of their predicament.”  Last night at Depression Impact Group (D.I.G.) we talked about dealing with emotions when a friendship ends….based on Christianne Squires’ post this week about “welcoming prayer”.  Christianne found herself suddenly dealing with grief, humiliation, and other negative emotions triggered by encountering someone she had lost as a friend due to circumstances beyond her control.  She writes that when she realized how she was ruminating on the past and feeling the negative emotions again, she engaged in a process that helped her regain her peace. (See Christianne’s article below)   One of the ladies at DIG reminded me of another attendees description of “compassionate detachment”….still caring for someone, but finding it necessary to detach from the outcome of their choices.  I was reminded of Jesus’ response to the Rich Young Ruler’s inquiry and choice to walk away without following the counsel of Christ for how to have eternal life.  Jesus had compassion on him, but he did not beg, plead, cajole or make demands or ultimatums when the young man made his decision and walked away.  Compassionate detachment is somewhat the process that Christianne describes….she accomplishes it through self-awareness, grounding, and prayer.  Not a bad strategy in some situations….including dealing with those with alcoholism or other addictive behaviors.  People in social services have to cultivate this capacity and avoid getting personally invested in the consequences/outcomes of other peoples’ choices, especially those that are life-limiting or self-destructive. 


Christianne Squires on Welcoming Prayer and the Loss of Friendship

In this past week of our October-long practice of the welcoming prayer, we invited you to focus on your need for affection — to allow the moments where your need for it cropped up and became an opening for welcoming prayer.

I’m going to share with you an experience I had with welcoming prayer and my need for affection that actually happened earlier this month, shortly after we introduced this practice.

On that particular, I was driving around town, doing my usual run of Monday errands. Just before I left the house, I had seen a post in my Facebook newsfeed from someone whose friendship I lost several years ago. Their post was innocuous — I couldn’t even tell you today what it said — but just seeing them in my newsfeed and reading their words in their voice pulled up all the old feelings.

I drove around town and noticed I couldn’t stop thinking about them and what had happened between us.

I felt sad, I felt angry, I felt regret, I felt loss. I felt confused, I felt indignant, I felt abandoned, I felt ignored. I felt guilt. I felt shame. I felt, again, so angry and sad.

It took me about a half-hour’s worth of errand stops to realize I might need to try welcoming prayer with the experience I was having. So right there in my red Mini Cooper, as I kept driving from one place to another, I started walking through all of the steps.

1. Notice your response, acknowledge it, and determine where in your body you can feel it.

I said out loud in the car, “Okay, this is happening. It feels like a really big deal. I can’t get past it. It’s gripped and triggered me. Where in my body am I feeling this?”

I took a moment to do a body scan and noticed it was centered in my throat. It felt like a smooth gray ball — perhaps the same gray ball that had showed up during the hurricane scare?! — was lodged at the base of my throat. It was preventing air from getting out or going in.

After a moment, I realized that the smooth gray ball was a bundle of grief.

2. Welcome the response, and welcome God’s presence with you in this place.

I said to myself that the grief was important. It was valid. Things didn’t end cleanly in the situation. A lot went unresolved. Of course I would still be feeling the grief. Of course I would be susceptible to triggers still.

And then, I welcomed God’s presence.

Hello, God, I prayed. Thank you for being here. Thank you for seeing the situation in all its fullness. Thank you for knowing and understanding why I’m feeling each one of these feelings I’m feeling. Thank you, too, for knowing what happened on their end of the experience and anything they may also be carrying because of it. Thank you for being able to hold both of our experiences with complete understanding and compassion.

3. Let go of your need for affection.

In order to let go of all that had gripped me, I had to first name everything I wished was different about the situation. So I did.

I wish what happened hadn’t happened. I wish what led up to what happened had gone down differently. I wish I could explain myself more. I wish I understood more of what happened for them. I wish there was grace for me in their heart. I wish I was loved by this person more than I was and am. I wish this could be restored.

And maybe someday it will be.

But maybe it won’t.

Can I let go of the need for any particular outcome — for the need to explain and be understood, especially — and just be with God and God’s truth to me in this place? What might that even be?

Letting go, for me, looked like this:

             Remembering God’s grace for me.

             Knowing God understood it all.

             Receiving God’s love for me.

             Trusting my enduring value, even when things get messy and I contributed to the mess.

             Wishing the other person well and praying they have what they need in whatever is happening in their life.   

What about you? Have you had the opportunity to apply the welcoming prayer to your need for affection — or any other needs or situations?