Compassion In Action
Since this is my first contribution to this column, I wanted to speak to you, the reader directly for a moment. First, I am honored that Belle asked me to write, because writing is definitely a passion of mine. It is said that for a writer, the process of writing is an obsession, it is all we think about and we cannot wait until the opportunity to do more of it. Belle, thanks for feeding my addiction.
Second, is that it is my intention to present you, the reader with ideas to think about. I will present the material with a mix of what I researched along with my opinion, but I will take great cares to be clear as to which is which. Ultimately, I hope you walk away with more questions then you started with, as this is the fodder in which we can grow. I encourage you to write me with your ideas and opinions as well so that I too can have the chance to learn and grow.
I wanted to start out with talking about compassion, as this is a big deal to me and not talked about enough. What is compassion? Can you see it? Hear it? Feel it? Taste or smell it? Compassion is not something you can hold in your hand or put in a box, rather it is a state of being. Some might argue that it is an emotion, but I believe we have emotional responses when we are in the presence of compassion.
There a number of definitions for compassion but I like the Merriam-Webster Dictionary description:
“Sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
This state of being is a natural one, but sometimes it is suppressed by judgment or ego. For some people it takes work to push other negative thoughts and opinions about a person or situation to allow compassion to come through, but when it does make its way to the surface, there is no other human condition other than love than can compare with it. In fact, compassion is a type of love that we have for our fellow man or woman.
This article is about compassion in action, that is the help to not only bring compassion to the surface of our souls but to use that state to make a difference in someone’s life. When we heal a soul, even just one, our soul grows in the process. The first part of the process is opening the way.
I love to use analogies, especially television and movie references because they help people conceptualize what I am talking about. It makes the abstract accessible. In the case of compassion in action, let us consider the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”
In the beginning, the Grinch only had hate in his small heart. He disliked the inhabitants of Who-ville so much that he stole everything from them in an attempt to ruin Christmas. His opinions about people were so strong that he lacked reason or more importantly compassion. After he did his worst the inhabitants in Who-ville still had their celebration and finally compassion filled his heart and it grew three sizes. He rushed down the mountain and allowed love to dictate his actions and was accepted with open arms into the Who-ville community. A grin crossed his face and compassion and understanding filled his soul. Another similar story of compassion is Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol,” in which Scrooge finally understood his role in people’s lives and understood which his Bob Cratchit was enduring with a sick child and a poor family and also his nephew’s generosity and compassion.
In order to experience compassion, you must first see others with a new set of eyes. You must truly understand people and why they are the way they are. While there are those that I would say are truly evil in this world, most of us are the product of our environment. We react to situations; our personalities are formed as are out behaviors based upon our life circumstances. Many people try to hide this pain and put up defenses or try to rationalize why they act the way they do. You have to try to look deep into another human being and understand them at their core.
This is no easy task. Psychics are slightly better at this because of practice, but everyone has the ability to look at another person as a human being- a creature of slightly more intelligence than other creatures on a planet which none of us can escape except at the end of our physical existence. We are all the same. Once you can truly see that, then you can better understand another human being at their core.
Once you can see other humans as being like us, then you can begin to empathize with other people. You can begin to figure out they are struggling just like you. They put on their pants just like you do. It is a truly humbling experience, because then you can see everyone from the President of the United States, to your mother, to the creepy old lady down the street as the same. No one is greater or less than anyone else. This is the beginning of compassion.
Once we understand a person from the inside through empathy, that is the ability to see and experience the world through their eyes, you can begin to understand their needs. Judgment and ego now have no place to live; there is only the need to help. Your heart will pull you into the direction of making another person’s life better, because you are experiencing their discomfort. You would not keep your hand on a hot burner, so how could you experience someone’s loss or someone’s need to drown their pain in a bottle and not try to do something about it?
Compassion does not mean you become the world’s doormat. Because you understand someone and have compassion for them, does not mean you leave all reason. Compassion can mean that you understand a person, feel for their situation, do not judge them, but also you move on past them because there may be little you can do except forgive them.
Forgiveness is one of the greatest expressions of compassion. People can hurt you in this life, whether on purpose or by accident. You may chose not to have that person in your life any further, but if you can forgive them in your heart using your power of compassion two beautiful things happen. First, you are able to dissolve bitterness, hate, guilt and other negative thoughts and emotions out of your soul. You can have true closure. The other thing is that you are sending them positive and healing energy. There are families of the victims of murder that show such compassion to perpetrators that the result is totally amazing. It does not bring people back from the dead, but it does heal everyone involved.
Think about how you can add some compassion into your life. Try to understand, empathize and bring love and light into other’s lives and feel your heart grow three times larger in one day.