The dictionary defines compassion as a noun, sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. While I agree that compassion is fellow feeling, concern, kindness, humanity, tenderness, mercy, and love, I don’t take to the word pity.
While the general emotions are, in fact, nouns I tend to believe that the word compassion is also a verb.
To pity is to feel sorry for.
Compassion is doing something about it.
Compassion is an act. It is going out of your way, or maybe not so far out at all, to help another human being who is suffering emotionally, spiritually, or physically.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. ~ Dalai Lama
Identifying with another person is an essential process for human beings. If you translate compassion literally, it means “to suffer together.” It is a process. When you can feel empathy for a person in a difficult time are you not more motivated to do something in an effort to make things better? You feel this person’s pain. Perhaps the situation is different, but you know from experience the emotional turmoil and suffering beneath and you want to DO SOMETHING.
In this doing of something to right the wrong you not only make the much needed human connection but you enlighten and improve not only the life of someone else, but your own as well.
Acts of compassion do not need to move mountains. It can be as simple as a look to a mother with a difficult child that doesn’t show aggravation or pity. You offer her understanding and tell her it’s okay. In that moment you have offered her strength and motivation. You have offered yourself the opportunity to make the world a better place in that small time and space.
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. ~ Dalai Lama
Imagine if everyone committed to one small act of unsolicited and unconditional compassion:
- running an errand for a sick friend
- holding the hand of an elderly person who is ill
- listening to a co-worker who recently lost a loved on
- offering the use of your cell phone to a stranded stranger
- helping the person in the grocery line without quite enough money
These are actions within the realm of possibility every single day for someone, somewhere. Add all of these together and these tiny moments become momentous. Huge. Life changing.
For all of us.
Do not turn away. Do not close your eyes to an opportunity to reach out and make the world a better place, in even the smallest way, for another person. In taking that measure, you not only improve the life of another, but your own as well.
Which brings me to what may be the hardest compassionate steps to take. Compassion toward our selves.
Have you spent your life being told you are not good enough? Not smart enough? Not thin enough? Not pretty enough?
I call bullshit.
We are all good enough.
We are all smart enough.
We are all beautiful.
Speak to yourself the way you would speak to someone else feeling the same hurt. This can break the pattern of pain and change everything.
I read a quote a while back that said “Without suffering there would be no compassion.”
In a perfect world.
But we need to be realistic. This is, and likely always will be, an imperfect world. There will be suffering.
So let there be compassion.
Listen with intention. Support and understand the best you can. In those moments, see a life change. Feel your heart change. This is compassion.
This is love.
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photo credit: 365::47 – poetry in my life via photopin (license)