Over the past several months I have been thinking a lot about compassion. What is it? Why do we need it? Why is easier for us to be compassionate to others than to ourselves? How to be compassionate?
Why I have been Thinking about Compassion
There are some things that are simply incomprehensible. Things that challenge our hearts and soul to respond with a deep pulsing compassion for our fellow man, woman and child, even when your heart and soul is on the verge of cracking completely.
I am thinking about the horrifying shootings in Aurora, CO and in Newtown, CT. They are on a scale that makes it impossible to ignore the incomprehensible.
Oddly, I know people in both Aurora and Newtown.
What is Compassion
Compassion is your conscious concern for an other person’s experiences or feelings. It gives you the grace and breathing room to both delight in your abilities and those of others. You are understanding when mistakes are made or when there is a set back. This is very helpful when you realize abilities (yours or other’s) are not what you thought they were, and the results in a mess of some sort.
Why do we need compassion
Compassion affords you the ability to bend not break. To consider how to begin to even gently touch the fragile razored edges of pain that someone is feeling when faced with a heartbreaking, embarrassing or painful experience. To leave space for some love and forgiveness, for an other person or for yourself, if not now, then in the future. To strive to do what we can to prevent such horrors. When they cannot be prevented ameliorate the consequences.
Responding to the pain of these gut-wrenching events with compassion is the only way I know how to respond that feels useful- or at least gives me the stuff I need so I can be useful. Even when it seems like an impossibility for find a reason for compassion. And I find this true for every other act of violence, including those when you berate yourself up for making a mistake.
How to be Compassionate to Yourself and Others
Its simple. See each person as whole and real. Then find a sense of unconditional warm regard for that person, even when that seems highly unlikely. Like when you are exasperated, hurt or heartbroken.
I have a friend named James Holmes. But not that James Holmes an other man, with same name and who lives in Aurora, CO. After the events in Aurora he was inundated with hateful messages. He also received an alarming number of new Facebook friend requests. It was awful for this gentle souled man.
What was his response? “I think people just wanted to reach out and express their feelings and I happen to have the same name.” That’s compassion.
Here is a link to an interview he gave to a local TV station about his experience.
Compassion is Simple Not Easy
A high school friend of mine has lived in Newtown, CT for the past 10 years. He, his wife and elementary school aged children are safe and warm. His children, who attend a different school than Sandy Hook Elementary, are physically unharmed. But the loss and pain for them all are very real- they lost friends and acquaintances.
In response to the shooting he has written about the importance of “seeing each other”. To really “see” each person. Everyday. Whether you are in the store with a stranger or in your home holding your sweetheart close. To acknowledge and respect one and other, purposefully, so complacency does not lead to taking one and other for granted or worse to dismiss one and other. Instead to witness our respective humanity, our joys, and hope, losses and crushing blows. To take up the chance to actively love one and other because we are all human and to find some way to express this affection to each person everyday.
My friend did this through simply making eye contact and smiling at people in his community on the Friday after the shooting. Simple, elegant and no-cost.
His thoughts, words and actions I think are so wise and a deeply mature compassionate, fully empathic response to a world of pain. My friend now has a sign up that says “We Are Sandy Hook. We Choose Love.”
What a fine undertaking for all of us, to “see” one and other and find some simple, quiet way to communicate this.
How might you take up this charge for everyday compassion?
- When you screw up at work?
- For the kid who is embarrassed by falling on the sidewalk?
- When some one lets you down?
- Or when you confront the everyday pains and challenges of living?
If we can be compassionate on a small-scale, we can be compassionate on a large-scale when the time comes.
Be strong. Be loving. Be kind. Be gentle. Be compassionate.
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Deirdre Danahar works with busy, creative, professionals who are looking to shift from what feels chaotic, disjointed or frustrating to a calm productive, spirited life. People she works with come away knowing how to do their best work without sacrificing their quality of life. She is the owner of InMotion Consulting & Coaching, LLC, based in Jackson, MS. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-362-8288.