How To Practice Compassion Outside Your Comfort Zone

They’re creepy, they’re crawly, and they are featured a lot on Halloween for a reason. I have despised spiders since childhood. I remember refusing to leave my bed as a child because I saw a massive Daddy Long Legs rudely prancing around in my room. My sister was terrified of spiders and so was I, and I had no real desire to change that whatsoever.

As I got older, I realized that fears and dislikes are often limitations. I will retry foods I didn’t like when younger because I know that as we grow, we evolve -- and our palates often do too. I will try to approach fears head on so that I can disassemble them, and watch them dissipate into oblivion. The aim is to improve on myself, to make myself a stronger person, but it wasn’t until I thought outside myself did I embrace these elegant creatures.

Compassion is one of the biggest gifts we have. Without it, we are savages. It’s easy to have it with humans because we are raised to. We are also compassionate towards furry puppies and kittens, and other cuddly creatures, because they are adorable. Once we get to reptiles, rodents and insects, however, personal opinions start to muddle our compassionate thinking. I used to be the person who would squish a spider or other insect if I was even brave enough to approach it. I didn’t think of them as living creatures, as sentient beings, and as entities that were not really bothering me or my space.

It’s hard to evolve one’s thinking and make changes because a lot of guilt comes along with it. I began to alter my thinking on creatures I may not like, because, frankly, their survival shouldn’t depend on my preference for them. I recently signed a petition for the protection of bats because they deserve to be here as much as I do, even if they’re creepy as all heck (and another Halloween fixture). I started politely escorting unwelcome insects out of my house via the front door on a loosely held napkin. Allowing them to continue their life unharmed, albeit slightly chucked outside, while slowly conquering my fear of insects was a win-win situation for everyone involved. It got to the point that I would let insects hang out (often literally) in my space without harm if they didn’t pose a threat to my cats, others, or myself.

The icing on this arachnid-themed cake was provided recently during a DIY project. My mother and I were in the backyard painting our patio furniture a vibrant color of emerald green. I was finishing painting the back of a bench, when suddenly, a quick little spider crawled on the scene. No amount of air or shooing would get the bugger to move away from the paint around him (or her). Obviously not wanting to paint over the spider, I stopped thinking about my fear and thought of this being. I let the crawly bug walk on my finger and felt a sense of liberation and pride as I quickly moved him to the floor. I’m sure I shook that finger a bit, as I’m not super homies with spiders just yet, but that moment allowed me to appreciate the beauty and life of spiders outside of my lifelong fear of them.

That brief, random moment taught me a lesson in giving anything in life that you don’t like, or are afraid of, a chance. All creatures are here to share this planet together. We are all connected, and should be given the right to live a life uninterrupted by someone else’s fear or disdain. The spider is a lesson that it’s time to give all living beings, even the eight-legged ones, the respect they deserve.