Notes on Compassion

Compassion. It's not your everyday kind of word, but it should be. In fact, it should be an everyday kind of action. Compassion is defined as sympathy and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. It is synonymous with empathy, brotherly love, kindness, understanding and humanity. Compassion should be the glue that holds our society, our worlds, our spirits together, however, far too often this is not the case. Putting ourselves in the shoes of another and taking the time to see their perspective and offering them decency and respect is the humane thing to do. It is compassion.

Compassion Towards Self

When we think about compassion we often think about it in terms of other people. We think about the disadvantaged, a lonely elderly person, minorities and targeted individuals. But we rarely think about compassion as something that we can or should offer ourselves. We should! There's so much negativity in this world, and it can be hard to steer around it sometimes. We pick up on these cues and messages and our subconscious mind stores them away and weaves them into narrative sometimes.

I'm talking about the way we frame things, the way we talk to ourselves, the messages we put on repeat in our mind. The negative energy or disagreeable things we find in ourselves will definitely benefit from a little compassion. Here are some ideas on how you can show yourself compassion.

  • Affirmations. When you affirm yourself, you are reprogramming the way you think and giving yourself some much needed attention and compassion.
  • Down time. Give yourself the freedom to do nothing or whatever you feel like doing sometimes. Constant pressure to perform and hit milestones can be detrimental.
  • Forgive. Everyone makes mistakes. Forgive yourself when you do. Don't beat yourself up. Instead, make a plan of atonement.
  • Patience. Stop trying to rush your process. Give yourself the time you need to process your feelings and thoughts. Give yourself space to understand and experience.

Compassion Towards Others

Showing compassion towards others can be just as difficult as showing yourself compassion at times. Extending this act of humanity to others is difficult when we are so focused on ourselves and our systems, beliefs, education, etc. It's not always easy to get out of your head and put yourself in someone else's position and think objectively about a situation without any attachment. But that's exactly how compassion works. It involves letting go of judgement, preconceptions and misconceptions, hatred, negativity and disrespect.

Compassion for others is all about humanity and understanding that what happens to one can and will affect what happens to others. Have you ever heard the saying, "Hurt people, hurt people," or "What goes around, comes around?" Probably. These sayings lie at the heart of compassion. And an even deeper truth about compassion is that you don't even have to understand their position or empathize. You only need to recognize their humanity. If they are a human being, living and breathing then they deserve humane treatment. There's no need to "agree" on politics, lifestyle, religion, beliefs, etc., you only need to agree to their humanity. That is enough.

Here are some ways you can start being more compassionate with people you come across. You'll feel good about yourself, and inspire them to pass along the compassion and kindness.

  • Be humble. Let go of your pride and the need to be "better than" someone else. Our pride and ego often gets in the way of progress.
  • Apologize. When you discover that you're wrong or that you made a mistake, apologize. See your own shortcomings and be honest about it.
  • Show respect. Respect is a big thing, and in many ways, it need not be earned. Respect someone's privacy, their right to make choices, their right to exist and their humanity.
  • Offer encouragement. When you see someone is looking down, offer a few kind words. A little encouragement can go a long way.

What do you do if being compassionate is a struggle for you?

Try showing yourself compassion when you make mistakes, when you act outside of the person you want to be, when you lose sight of your goals or when you aren't as productive as you thought you should be for the day. Start with You first. The more you practice showing yourself compassion, the better equipped you will be to extend this same kindness to others in your life.

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