What does compassion mean to you?
To me it means showing care and understanding for the world around us and the people we meet. It sounds pretty simple right, but are we genuinely living our lives in a compassionate way? My answer to that is sometimes yes, but other times compassion is not at the forefront of my mind. This could be due to time; rushing around so we are not aware of what is going on in front of us. Or it may be the process of life or work as we have a goal or something we need to get done and again, that care and understanding isn’t prioritised. We also find that we sometimes lack understanding for those closest to us so compassion falls by the wayside.
We have been inspired by some amazing icons that we believe are superhuman, superior and out of our league. For example:
– Mahatma Ghandi dedicated his life to advocate for the civil rights of Indian people.
– Mother Teresa spent her life helping the poor, sick and helpless.
– Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years as he fought to abolish racial segregation.
Wow! How can we ever be as compassionate as these guys! ‘Mahatma’ translates to ‘great soul’ for Christ sake – these are some outstanding human beings. How can we ever be as compassionate as them? And that’s what we need to realise, we may not be a Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela but we can be inspired by the kindness and selflessness they showed towards the world and follow the path they so greatly paved.
We shouldn’t feel intimidated by the standard they’ve set, as every moment of compassion is a step in the right direction. It’s these steps that lead to a more compassionate world. As they say ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.
The good and the bad
As important as compassion is, we live in a world of greatness, which is sadly fought with some negative actions and beliefs.
Love is present but there’s also hate
Kindness is the aim but violence remains
Honesty we respect but people can deceive
Which side of the list would you rather be? I’m sure we’ve all fallen on both sides and that’s normal; we all have occasions that we perhaps aren’t proud of and maybe regret, but we do not have to surrender to the negative ways of life.
Small moments matter
I know this seems like a minuscule problem in comparison to some of the horrific things happening in the world but I’ve been thinking about online trolls and how they so confidently set out to make someone else feel shit. This kind of negativity is probably towards the bottom end of the scale of nasty acts but it starts the path of unnecessary cruelty. It’s madness to think that people will spend their time and energy trying to rip someone else down but as I’ve said before, this says more about that person than anyone else. We want that person to be more compassionate but they too need compassion.
Our compassion needs to be given to those closest to us, our next-door neighbour, the poor and sick, those struggling with life but also the people that give out hate that we naturally want to hate in return. This person too deserves compassion.
Demonstrating compassion to the person that cut us up or the person that used harsh words to rip us down is no easy task. Why would we want to show care towards them? Because if we do not demonstrate compassion, we demonstrate anger or upset or sadness or confusion or all of these combined. If we lead with openness and compassion, we allow ourselves to accept and understand to move on more readily.
It may be worth mentioning that compassion is Latin for ‘suffering with’ as we share the distress and discomfort of other people. This may make compassion sound less appealing as we don’t welcome feeling crap but ‘compassion’ allows us to be mindful of suffering and does not physically cause us to suffer too. It may have an emotional impact but it also benefits our health as we live more mindfully and authentically to our surroundings. Research shows we feel a better sense of happiness when we give to others than when we receive. So, compassion is the way forward…honest!
Compassion for others will create a better world, but what about compassion for ourselves? Buddhist psychology explains self-compassion or self-love is a way of relating to ourselves with a sense of kindness. This is not arrogance or self-obsession but an acceptance and understanding that we too deserve. It’s always an interesting question to ask, if we would treat a friend, the way we treat ourselves? And often the answer is ‘no’ because we would not inflict such negativity on our friends (or we shouldn’t). So why would we do that to ourselves? We also deserve the love and care we give out. We need to practice giving out compassion but let’s not forget to take in some of that for ourselves.
Tips to be more compassionate to others:
– Offer words of encouragement
– Listen to people and offer support
– Hold back on that negative comment
– Understand why they may have acted in that way
– Don’t impose what you think is right; listen, ask questions and guide
Tips to be more compassionate to ourselves:
– Ask yourself ‘would I treat a friend like this?’ ‘What would I say to a friend right now?’
– Understand your feelings – ‘why do I feel like this?’
– Support and encourage yourself! ‘I can do it!’
– Talk to someone, tell them you are struggling, ask for help
– Write down some things you like about yourself and keep for the days you need it
Developing compassion doesn’t mean we are striving to be perfect; it’s simply a way of understanding and caring about the world around us.
Inhale compassion. Exhale compassion.
You may also like to read about Giving Back and the power of a simple conversation