Humans are social beings. We need each other. We love each other. We couldn’t survive without each other, but we drive each other crazy. We all share this incredible experience of being human, but we all come at that experience from a different angle. Each region of the world has its own culture, which is an unspoken, or painstakingly codified, set of rules for how to deal with each other. Within the larger cultures of countries, there are smaller cultures of states, cities, neighborhoods, right down to families and individual family members. We each have our own culture that is us, it is our way of being, our way of dealing with other people.
Dealing with other people is difficult because they each have their own culture too. Dealing with people in our own families can be especially difficult because so much of the culture is shared, that we have strong habitual ways of behaving toward each other. We expect our family members to behave and misbehave just how they do, and we then behave and misbehave just how we do in response. We may feel lots of love for our family, but we also experience great frustrations with them as their being who they are makes it hard for us to be who we are.
As complicated as things are in a family, as soon as we leave our families, things get more complicated. Then we have to deal with people who we don’t know. People we don’t know can be scary. They may do anything. We don’t know. Fortunately we are able to get to know people and make friends. We form friend cultures, where we can be something a little different from what we are in our family culture. Then we go deal with the school culture or work culture, or we travel the world and deal with international cultures.
The one constant as we move from our families out into the world is us. Wherever we go, we are the ones who have to deal with other people. We also have to deal with ourselves as we deal with other people. Even though that constant of ourself seems constant, the only thing constant about us is that we are constantly changing. Each micro and macro culture we encounter changes our personal culture. We grow.
If we want to grow happier, we have to deal with ourselves as we deal with other people. When somebody makes us angry, it is easy to blame the other person for our anger, but the anger is only ours. It is our personal culture to get angry and blame others for our anger. It is our culture to get sad and blame our circumstances for our sadness. To grow happier, we practice compassion for ourself, for our family, for our friends, and for people all over the world. We recognize how hard it is to deal with other people, yet how rewarding it is at the same time. When we think we are having trouble dealing with other people, we can remember that we are having problems dealing with ourselves. Even if we have a hard time recognizing somebody else’s suffering, we can recognize our own suffering and remember to be compassionate. The more we practice compassion, the better we get at it. It becomes our culture. It grows to include other people, friends and family, then the world. As our compassion grows, our relationship to suffering changes. We grow happier.