Updated: Sep 3, 2019
Compassion is such an easy term to say but what does it really mean and how do you incorporate it in your life? Compassion has become one of those words we say automatically to express a need to be kind and caring. Or to point at situations or people and say “they” need to be more compassionate. Compassion is something we are all seeking and asking or expecting of our self or others. It has become a term that is used automatically without really understanding the true depth of its meaning.
The definition of Compassion is the sympathetic consciousness or awareness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. That is to be aware that something might be wrong or upsetting to someone and wanting to help change or improve it. Say you saw a friend that was having a bad or upsetting day. You would notice this and ask them what is wrong and how can you help. That is having compassion. Easy example, right?
Compassion is a beautiful gift that we can use to understand people, see what is going on in their life and try to help them. But unfortunately, some have used the term as an accusatory statement towards other people. It can be weaponized with shame or guilt to divide or hurt people. For example, telling other people they need to be more compassionate is accusatory and judging. Saying people are not compassionate because they do not agree with someone’s belief or opinion is not the correct use. And yet we all do it or have done it and a little to commonly but why?
One of the things we all want in life is to be treated with compassion. To be treated with love, respect, and empathy. We want people to understand us and where we are coming from. We want people to validate our opinions and be on “our” side. We ask this of people everyday and are hurt when it is not received. But are YOU able to give out compassion, true compassion to everyone around you? Are you behaving the way you want others to respond and treat you? That is sometimes a really hard thing to look at and to look at honestly.
None of us want to think we are not being compassionate right? But we can get so caught up in opinions, ideas, getting stuff done, political ideas (yikes) and having our voice heard that we forget about how it comes across to others. When you express ideas and thoughts do you have compassion if someone does not agree with you? Maybe what you are saying is not something other people agree with or do not share the same values or opinion. This means they could be hurt by what you said even if it is just an opinion. Can you have compassion to see they might be offended or hurt, and do you want to help them feel better or ease the situation? Or do you feel like you just won an argument and are doing a touchdown dance in front of them? Now this does not mean you cannot express your thoughts and opinions but just be conscious of how others react. There may be times when someone is truly hurt because they don’t agree with what you said even if it was unintentional. But when that happens can you offer them compassion?
Do you see the point? Having compassion is not just about when it’s easy to give to someone you love that is close to you or agrees with you. Can you have true compassion for someone with a different opinion that doesn’t agree with you? Can you help to make them feel it’s ok to have a different thought or opinion and not something that they should feel bad about? Can you give this to someone else first even if they cannot return it to you right now?
Compassion is an amazing gift that we all should be using more often. Some use it a lot and some not so much. But it is your choice how you want to incorporate it into your life. Normally the more you can give out the more you receive back. The more you give the more interesting people you meet. The more stories you learn. You see people so much differently and with so much more love and respect.
Compassion allows you to have different thoughts and opinions from people and still respect them. Have open conversations without being afraid of them not agreeing with you, hear them out and know it is OK not to agree. Embrace differences of all kinds. Not just to people that you think are social and just but the people that you think are completely off their rocker too. Because honestly, they probably think the same thing of you. That’s because we all have unique experiences and different backgrounds that yes form different thoughts and opinions. That means no one is right and no one is wrong. Just that everyone has their own opinion of what’s right and what’s wrong to them. And that is what makes people unique and interesting. Who wants a world full of people that all have the same thoughts and opinions? Boring....
Think about how you can start being truly compassionate in your life? Can you also be more compassionate to yourself and forgive things in your past and give yourself the tools to heal and move forward? How can you start giving compassion to people you normally would not and then see it multiply and come back to you? Challenge yourself to up your compassion meter. Then see what wonderful new people you meet and new friendships that can be created. You might surprise yourself and meet some pretty terrific new people and see a whole new side of yourself!