There are many myths and misunderstandings about metta, or lovingkindness.
Simply because the word metta is not found in English — and because there isn’t an exact equivalent — it’s possible to think that the emotion itself is something strange and unusual.
It’s possible for us to confuse metta with other emotions.
It’s also possible for us to think that since metta is part of a spiritual path it must be something very exalted and distant, and not something that we’ve ever experienced.
Here are some explanations of what metta is not:
- Metta isn’t the same thing as feeling good, although when we feel metta we do feel more complete, and usually feel more joyful and happy. But it’s possible to feel good and for that not to be metta. We can feel good, but be rather selfish and inconsiderate, for example. Metta has a quality of caring about others.
- Metta isn’t self-sacrifice. A metta-full individual is not someone who always puts others before themselves. Metta has a quality of appreciation, and we need to learn to appreciate ourselves as well as others.
- Metta isn’t something unknown. We all experience Metta. Every time you feel pleasure in seeing someone do well, or are patient with someone who’s a bit difficult, or are considerate and ask someone what they think, you’re experiencing Metta.
- Metta isn’t denying your experience. To practice Metta doesn’t mean “being nice” in a false way. It means that even if you don’t like someone, you can still have their welfare at heart.
- Metta isn’t all or nothing. Metta exists in degrees, and can be expressed in such simple ways as simple as politeness and courtesy.