“I’m not sure”—Is That Compassionate?
Embrace Uncertainty for Greater Compassion

I began to notice how seldom we ‘make place for the other’ in social interaction. . . . Western society is highly opinionated.”
– Karen Armstrong

Is there a connection between knowing you’re always right and being unsympathetic?

And its converse? Are those who realize they could be wrong likely to be more compassionate?

I’m curious about it. I wonder if it’s so.

Because sometimes, from where I sit anyway, it seems to be true: that people who are most sure of their position are often the harshest ones. And people who accept their potential to be wrong are the ones more likely to give grace to others.

But I could be wrong. . . .

In Karen Armstrong’s book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, Armstrong suggests these three exercises to grow in compassion.

1. Appreciate the unknowable

Armstrong suggests participating daily in an experience that touches you deeply beyond words. What brings you awe? What captures your sense of wonder? One example for me is the awe I feel when I see unusual displays of kindness. Seeing humans treat other humans with exceptional respect and dignity makes me truly realize there’s much I still don’t understand about the depth of goodness in our humanity.

2. Become sensitive to overconfidence

You probably know someone in your life who thinks they know everything. (And if not, turn on the news; you’ll find talking heads who think they know it all.) Do we try too hard to win arguments? Are we too reluctant to admit, “I don’t know”? Would we be wise to occasionally play devil’s advocate against our own views to uncover blind spots?

3. Notice the mystery of each person

Be mindful of the beautiful mystery of each person in your day. Think about what you specifically love about your partner or close friend. And then about yourself. What makes you different from everyone else? Do you value the mystery of each person?

Another book that touches deeply on this message is Kathryn Schulz’s amazing book, Being Wrong (it’s messing with me, I tell you). She reminds me that even as I seek Truth, the deceptive allure of certainty is hard at work pulling me in the opposite direction of Love.

“Just as our love of being right is best understood as a fear of being wrong, our attraction to certainty is best understood as an aversion to uncertainty.”
– Kathryn Schulz

How little we know.

May we make peace with it so we can learn more.

And open up space for more love, more grace, and more compassion.

* * *

Has being wrong ever taught you to be more compassionate? Who in your life is a compassionate person? I want to hear.

Read more:


Practicing the Art of Curiosity and Conversations

I set a personal goal to have six conversations.

It was in response to the national goal of my climate science group to collectively have 25,000 conversations about climate in the month of April.

I decided to start with an easy one: my husband Jeff. We’re basically on the same page anyway about climate. We may not agree on some of the statistics, but we both agree on the need to care for the planet we’re living on.

But as the conversation progressed, something went wrong. Instead of a conversation of curiosity and camaraderie, it grew into an argument. I became frustrated that he couldn’t understand my points, and he was irritated that I assumed I was right about it all.

It was a lesson for me. Not on how to have a healthy climate conversation. But how NOT to have one. (I quickly realized I should have first watched the recommended video about having the conversations.)

With Jeff, I had been curious enough to initiate the conversation, but not curious enough to be a good listening partner.

The next day, I asked Jeff if I could try again with him. He gently suggested maybe I should ask someone else instead? Touché.

We both found his response quite humorous and had a great laugh about it.

And we did have the conversation about climate science. This time it went beautifully.

I didn’t meet my conversation goal that month. I only had five conversations about climate instead of six. But I am meeting my goal (so far) this year to write a poem each month using my One Word of the Year, Curiosity.

Here is an acrostic I wrote, prompted by curious conversations I’ve been having this year—some hard and some easy.

PRACTICING THE ART OF CURIOSITY AND CONVERSATIONS

Conversations are richer when you remain curious.

Uncertain of answers, you ask deeper questions.

Relationships swell as thoughts rise higher.

Inquisitive souls breed compassion and grace,

Offers of unfolding mysteries bubbling up.

Slow down enough to accept one or two.

Intentions to attend and consider are rewarded,

Teaching you lessons never imagined.

Yonder in time you’ll need the wisdom they birth today.


Share in the comments.


How Present Are You in Your Happy Place?

“Be where your feet are.”
– Scott M. O’Neil

The Challenge of Staying Present

Do you have a “happy place” you go to in your mind when you want to escape a currently uncomfortable moment, such as when you’re waiting in a doctor’s office, or caught in a traffic jam, or enduring something seriously difficult?

It was a beautiful Tuesday morning and I was actually physically present in my happy place: the beach. All of it was there: the sand, the sun, the crashing waves, the tasty snacks, the paperback novel.

Yet despite this perfect setting, my mind wouldn’t stay here.

It drifted to some dark thoughts, of harsh words heard, of feelings of betrayal, of immense grieving of precious people.

Is the Body Keeping the Score?

An unusually high wave splashed ocean water a little closer to my chair. It woke me up. Back to the moment. Back to the beach. Back to contentment.

And back to curiosity.

  • Why, even in the best of circumstances, can our minds not stay centered?
  • What makes it so hard to stay aware of where we are?
  • Is there a way to lock into the present moment, and stay here?

Pondering the thoughts, my mind drifted to Bessel van der Kolk’s popular book (and now even more popular phrase), The Body Keeps the Score. The premise is that when we experience a traumatic event, it embeds itself into our bodies. Without subsequent healing, even when our minds try to forget the trauma, our bodies don’t forget. Our bodies remember; they keep the score.

The Body’s Memory of Joy

So sitting on the beach I wondered: is the opposite also true? Does our body keep the score from good experiences, too? Like sitting at the beach?

If my eyes are seeing the waves, my ears are hearing the sounds, my toes are feeling the sand, even as my mind wanders back and forth, is it still adding up in my favor?

I don’t know for sure. But I hope it is so, that even when my brain isn’t fully present when I’m in my happy place (I wish you were here), my body is still present. My body is fully alive in this good experience.

Then, when my brain eventually comes home to reality because it always does—oh yeah, we’re at the beach!!!—I can relax even more fully.

Thanks for coming back, friend. Can we sit here together awhile?


What is your happy place? In quiet moments, is it hard or easy for you to stay fully present? Share in the comments.

I’m noting my curious thoughts a little more intentionally this year since my One Word for 2024 is Curiosity. See all my Curiosity posts here.

More articles on Curiosity


10 Books I Recommend—May 2024

“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”
– William H. Gass

Here are 9 nonfiction books + 1 novel I recommend from what I finished reading in May 2024. 

[See previously recommended books here]

NONFICTION

1. Cloistered
My Years as a Nun
by Catherine Coldstream

After Catherine Coldstream’s father died when she was 24 years old, she felt unsure which direction to take in her life. So she became a nun. It went well at first. Then things began falling apart. In this memoir she shares both the good and bad parts of her years as a nun . . . and what eventually led to her running away.

Cloistered

[See my full review here of Cloistured: “Silent Escape: A Nun’s Journey from Confinement to Freedom”]

2. Say Good Night to Insomnia
by Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs

Say Good Night to Insomnia

Well, I’m sad to report that even after reading this book, I haven’t totally said good night to insomnia. However, when I follow through with Jacobs’ suggestions on any given night, I either sleep more soundly or have less angst about it if I don’t. Because I’m making progress, I’ll continue working on it. His approach is a healthy and rational way to getting better sleep.

3. With the Devil’s Help
A True Story of Poverty, Mental Illness, and Murder
by Neal Wooten

With the Devil's Help

This is a fascinating memoir. Wooten not only is an excellent storyteller, but he also has a story worth telling. He grew up on Sand Mountain in Alabama, with a legacy of abusive men and family secrets. He unfolds the plot masterfully in this book. 

4. Our Last Best Act
Planning for the End of Our Lives to Protect the People and Places We Love
by Mallory McDuff

Our Last Best Act

As I was preparing for the death of my friend V, this book stood out to me. It’s written by a professor as she planned her own funeral and burial arrangements as eco-friendly as possible. I learned so much about the funeral industry from her findings.

5. The Exvangelicals
Loving, Living, and Leaving the White Evangelical Church
by Sarah McCammon

After growing up as a believer in an evangelical family, Sarah McCammon’s faith began to unravel as she watched disturbing trends occuring in the Christian world. She writes here about her own experiences as well as about her extensive research among others who have come out of the evangelical movement. Excellent book.

The Exvangelicals

[See my full review here: “The Exvangelicals: If You’re Curious About Why They’re Leaving the Evangelical Church]

6. Minority Rule
The Right-Wing Attack on the Will of the People―and the Fight to Resist It
by Ari Berman

Minority Rule

I read this book in preparation for an online democracy book club (it was a fascinating interview with the author Ari Berman!). Berman takes a fair look at the history of democracy in the United States and where it appears to be headed next. Will we be able to keep a democratic form of government in the years to come? This book helps explain why we may or may not.

7. No Bad Parts
Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model
by Richard C. Schwartz
No Bad Parts

I’m relatively new to learning about the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model. This book is a great explanation of it. IFS is a way of addressing the various parts of ourselves (as in, part of me wants to do this, yet part of me wants to do that), to bring healing to our whole self.

8. Healing After Loss
Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief
by Martha Whitmore Hickman

Healing After Loss

This book contains beautiful daily meditations on healing through grief. It’s been around awhile (originally published in 1994) but it holds up as timeless. I found it encouraging as I go through my own grieving process. 

9. Hidden Potential
The Science of Achieving Greater Things
by Adam M. Grant

Hidden Potential

This is one of those amazing books that you really need to read multiple times to really grasp all of it. Grant writes succinctly yet fully about the character skills we each can build to grow into our best human selves. I highly recommend it!

FICTION

10. The Latecomer
by Jean Hanff Korelit

The Latecomer

I found this novel so intriguing. It’s about the individual lives of a very unique set of triplets and their wealthy parents, the Oppenheimers. The plot moves along quickly, with enough twists and mysteries to keep you wondering about the “latecomer” foreshadowed early on.

WHAT I’M READING NOW

  • Jane Eyre
    by Charlotte Brontë
  • Worth Fighting For
    Finding Courage and Compassion When Cruelty is Trending
    by John Pavlovitz
  • Write a Must-Read
    Craft a Book That Changes Lives―Including Your Own
    by A.J. Harper
  • Life After Doom
    Wisdom and Courage for a World Falling Apart
    by Brian D. McLaren
  • The Light Shines in the Darkness
    Choosing Hope After a Mass Shooting
    by Melinda Rainey Thompson
  • The Age of Magical Overthinking
    Notes on Modern Irrationality
    by Amanda Montell
  • Do/Walk
    Navigate earth, mind and body. Step by step.
    by Libby Delana
  • It’s Not All Downhill from Here
    by Terry McMillan


What good book have you read lately? Please share in the comments.

sharing at these linkups



Share 4 Somethings—May 2024

For the 2024 edition of “Share 4 Somethings,” Jennifer asks us to share each month:

  1. Something loved and/or disliked
  2. Something accomplished
  3. Something improved upon and/or that needs improvement
  4. Something noticed

I also share my previous month’s One Second Everyday video . . .

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Something Loved

  • HEARING AND SEEING AUTHORS ON YOUTUBE 

Do you like to see what an author you’re reading looks like?

When I’m reading a non-fiction book by an author I don’t know, I sometimes google them on YouTube so I can see what they look like and hear how they speak (they often have interviews posted).

For example, my Tuesday morning book club is about to start this book: DO/WALK/ Navigate earth, mind and body. Step by step. I have never heard of the author Libby DeLana, so I looked her up and watched some of this interview about her book. And discovered she is a fascinating person!

I sometimes only listen to a video for a minute or two, but those few minutes of seeing and hearing the author is enough for me to recognize them more as a fellow human being with a passion to share something instead of only flat words typed on a page. It makes what they write feel a bit more personal and stay with me a little bit longer.

 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Something Accomplished

  • STRAWBERRY FREEZER JAM

I didn’t begin eating strawberries until I was an adult. Now I can’t stop.

Every spring we buy locally-grown fresh strawberries to make several batches of strawberry freezer jam. This year, Jeff, Jenna, and I made 7 batches to keep in our freezers and enjoy all year long. I use this recipe from the Sure-Jell package, which is easy and delicious.

With the strawberries we had left over, we also made strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, and a strawberry cake, some of my favorite desserts. (I also love Strawberry Pretzel Salad…I didn’t remember to make that this year!)

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Something that Needs Improvement

  • DELETING PHOTOS ON MY PHONE

Uh oh. Looking at my iPhone storage a few weeks ago, I discovered I only had 9 GB of remaining storage. How did that happen? Mainly because I have SO MANY photos and videos on my phone.

I thought I had already deleted quite a few photos this past year and transferred several more to more permanent storage, but there are still many more to go through. It feels like a monumental task.

So I’m taking baby steps. For one year, I’m committing to a daily search of that date’s photos (it’s super easy; type in the date, not year, and only those pics pop up). Here’s my search for May 28.

Usually about 10-20 photos will show up up from all the years past. That quantity is small enough for me to enjoy (time-wise and emotionally!) in less than a minute or two a day.

Baby steps. But I’m already seeing progress.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Something Noticed

  • THE NOISY CICADAS

What’s that noise? If you’re in the Southeast and Midwest U.S this month, the answer is likely this: Cicadas.

Lots and lots of cicadas. And they are indeed very loud. They say this is the first time since 1803 that these two broods emerged at the same time, and it won’t happen again until 2037.

It’s not a bad sound though. It’s actually a nice background hum, similar to white noise, so I don’t mind it at all.


What is something you are loving, accomplishing, improving, or noticing this month? Do you have an overload of cicadas where you are?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

I’m linking at these blog parties


Find the Hidden Clues: Be a One Word Photo Sleuth
{One Word 2024 May Linkup}

Link all of your ONE WORD blog posts below. Share an update about your One Word in the comments.

~ * ~ * ~

Monthly Challenge: Take Photos

Do you have a phone? Or a camera? Then you are equipped for this month’s One Word challenge!

Be a One Word photo sleuth.

Look all around you for hints of your word. Find them in objects, people, or places. Snap a photo of these things. Include yourself in at least one of the photos!

The more you look for your word, the more you’ll find it.­

Photos with My One Word: Curiosity

Jeff and I vacationed at the beach last week. Here are 3 photos of things that sparked my curiosity while we were there.

1. EXCAVATOR ON THE BEACH

Excavator on the beach

I’ve never seen an excavator on the beach before. After storms had shifted sand around, clogging up the outlet that connects nearby Lake Powell with the Gulf of Mexico, this excavator spent the morning returning the sand back where it belonged so that water could exchange freely again between the ocean waters from the Gulf and the coastal dune waters from Lake Powell.

2. GABBY, THE UNUSUAL ANIMATRONIC

Gabby at Angelo's Steak Pit, Panama City Beach, FL

One of our favorite restaurants in Panama City Beach is Angelo’s Steak Pit. Their steaks never disappoint. But what has always been curiously strange to me is Gabby, an animatronic they’ve had for years in the lobby of the restaurant. Gabby used to talk to you as you walked past him. He always startled our daughters when they were young. Now he’s mute, but he’s still a bit creepy even in his silence.

3. A VERY, VERY CLOSE BIRD

What you can’t see in the photo is the wild bird that was practically on our heads as we walked out of dinner at Pompano Joe’s in Pier Park. He was sitting very close on a wire above our heads, screaming his little lungs out nonstop, apparently oblivious to the customers that were walking all around him. We stood there for a few minutes and he never let up.

Share Your Photos and Comments

Stay aware this month. And share. We’d love to see where you find your One Word. If you blog, share a post with the photos you take at our blog linkup here.

Also, tell us about your One Word in the comments.

Next Linkup

This One Word linkup will remain open for 2 weeks for your One Word posts, closing at midnight on Friday, June 7. Link as many posts as you’d like about your One Word. Each link will also be shared in our One Word Facebook group

Our June linkup will open on Monday, June 24 (and on the 24th of each month for 2024).

If you’d like to receive our monthly One Word emails and ideas, join here any time of the year.

May you find your One Word as often as you seek it.


What is your One Word for 2024? Where have you seen it? Leave a comment here.

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