What does it mean to have compassion?
In very simple terms, it means to seek to understand the life of another person. Whether the person be in your life for years or just a moment, the interaction they have with you is one in which they are valued, heard, and appreciated. Why is compassion important? Because everyone suffers. Everyone. Not everyone’s suffering is the same but regardless of the cause of that suffering, we can all relate to that feeling of pain. When we see that in each other, our hearts are opened to the possibility that we are a lot more alike than we are different.
How then do we live compassionately? Here are a few thoughts…
Withhold judgement. It is easy to see the “perfect” family picture on Instagram and quickly craft a story about that person’s experience, thinking that their life is perfect and they don’t face any trials. It is just as simple to have an interaction with a co-worker who seems agitated and jump to conclusions about them as a person. Don’t craft the story in your head, let the story unfold as the other person wants to share it.
Serve without the expectation of getting anything in return. Let’s be honest, deep down we are all a little selfish and often want to do things because of what we get in return. Put those feelings aside and as you see a need and serve. Don’t boast about it. Don’t expect anything in return. And then when it is over, think about the time you spent serving and what it meant for those you were with.
Be vulnerable. Being with someone as they face a challenge in life is difficult and it can trigger emotions that we would rather not recognize. When a friend gets expelled from school because of academic failure and you are with them when they tell their parents, it requires you to be present and be in the moment with them. Don’t back away from the opportunity to share your emotions, feelings, and experiences. Doing so can create a space for others to do the same. It can show others that no matter what hurt or hang-up they have, they are important to you.
Wish others well. When a car cuts you off in traffic, the first thought in your mind may not be one of good wishes. But what if it was? And not in a sarcastic way – but one of true thoughtfulness. As we go through our days, we interact with many people that we know nothing about. From the cashier at the movie theater to the telemarketer that calls every single week to ask us to change our cable service, they each have a story. What if my reaction was first one of well wishes before one of frustration? It can change the way you see people because your first thought is one of positivity and not frustration.
Practice Self-Compassion. All of the concepts above can be applied to you as well. We are often our own worst critics and, when the world around is also judging us, there can be little escape. So be kind to yourself. See the goodness that you bring to the lives of others. Take time to heal the hurts of your own life.
How will you practice compassion in the coming days? Tell us in the comments!