“Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.” The Dalai Lama
What is compassion ?
The definition of compassion according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is
“The sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”.
Many people confuse compassion with empathy. Compassion has the added element of having a desire to alleviate or reduce the suffering of another. From <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/200804/what-is-compassion-and-how-can-it-improve-my-life
Empathy is “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Definition from the Oxford Dictionary. It does not include the desire to alleviate distress; to take steps to help the person in distress.
So are you compassionate ? Before writing this if someone had asked me if I were compassionate I would have said yes. After reading and researching I am not sure I truly am. I think I have empathy and I do think I am compassionate but not as much as I could, or should, be. Compassion indicates that you have to have the desire to alleviate another person’s distress. I may have the desire but what does it take to really follow through and act on that desire. I could be wrong, and I hope I am, but I think most people are similar to me. We have empathy, but we do not practice true compassion.
Thankfully I know there are many truly compassionate people and they are indeed special.
When you watch the nightly news or information on the internet, the feed on face book, what is your reaction ? I quite often cringe at people’s cruelty and the pain that people are going through. I make the right sounds of anguish, say the right things but do I actually do anything. I might make a contribution when I am able but do I actually take what would be considered true action ? No. I think most people would also say no.
I also understand that to be compassionate it does not have to be a grand gesture or action. Most of us do not have the ability to do so. We do not have the financial means or the ability to go to a disaster area to help.
How do we practice being compassionate ? How can we be compassionate toward others ?
I think we have to be open minded and try to understand what other people are going through on a day to day basis. We do not know what their life is like or what their day has been like. So do not be judgmental or too quick to jump to a conclusion. The best and easiest way to be compassionate is to smile. I love it when someone smiles at me. How can you not smile back ? So smile often, at many people, every chance you get.
“Compassion, tenderness, patience, responsibility, kindness, and honesty are actions that elicit similar responses from others.” — Jane Smiley, Harper’s, June 2000
I believe that each aspect of the above quote are all part of compassion; have patience, show tenderness and kindness and be honest.
To show, or practice, compassion we need to not only be aware of others but ourselves as well. If we are having a bad day, if we are over tired or stressed, then it will be difficult to be open and aware of other people and their problems. So be kind to yourself first and you will be better equipped to be kind to someone else.
Ironically, we tend to not always be aware of those we are closest to, in particular our families. How easy is it to take them for granted or to be easily critical. They love us right so they will understand. No, that is just wrong, but I know I do it. I hope I am wrong but I think most people do it too.
So become aware of the interactions with your family and your friends and treat them with compassion. Be Kind to them and also to your self and then do the same to everyone else as well.
A smile or kind gesture done each day should be a habit we each maintain. It should be easy right ? It should also be honest and sincere. If you ask someone how they are and if there is anything you can do to help, mean it. Don’t just ask the question and then not follow through. If you know you can’t, or won’t, follow through then don’t offer the help. A kind word and a smile will always be beneficial.
Can you imagine how much better the world would be if we were all more open minded and aware and that we all showed compassion toward each other ?
“There is a nobility in compassion, a beauty in empathy and a grace in forgiveness.” Unknown