Deep awareness of the suffering of another accompanied by the wish to relieve it.
I have always been a naturally sensitive and compassionate person, sometimes to a fault. I feel the ills of the world as if they were my own and walk through life feeling alone in it. It hurts me deeply to see so much suffering and unfairness and my one wish is that more people could see things differently and try a little harder to feel the love and compassion I do.
We should all try to feel more compassion for those who have less than us, for those who we feel are undeserving of compassion, and for ourselves. Even small acts of compassion can make this world a more pleasant place to exist in and give each of us more joy and purpose.
Compassion for Those Less Fortunate
“True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.”
— Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living
There is an idea, particularly here in America, that through hard work and dedication everyone can have heath, wealth, and happiness. The American Dream. And if you have not achieved the American Dream it is through some fault in your own character and it is your job to fix yourself and pull yourself up. This idea does not take into account that we all don’t start out with the same opportunities and that there are not more obstacles on the path for some than for others.
There are people suffering from health issues and/or mental health issues. There are those who belong to groups that are systematically discriminated against. There are those for whom the education system has failed them. There are those who grew up in abusive homes or foster homes. There are those for whom pure chance and a lack of luck have put them in positions where they are now poor regardless of their past hard work or grades.
Some people just happen to live in countries with few natural resources or are rife with war and corruption and through events outside of their control, there are no jobs and they live with nothing and no opportunities.
There are many reasons why people are poor and less fortunate, more than I could list. But most of the reasons are things that hard work and “gumption” can’t get people out of. These types of obstacles require a group effort. Each of us needs to stop and look inside ourselves and find some empathy for our fellow human beings. Remember, we all belong to one big global family. Think about that and see if you don’t find some love for your fellow man. When you find that love, use it to make someone’s life better.
We are all human, we bleed the same blood, we cry the same tears, and we feel the same emotions. In this great big universe all we have is each other and we ought to start appreciating each other and lifting ourselves up, together. There is nothing we all couldn’t do if only we could love one another.
I could argue that helping the less fortunate is the morally right thing to do but that would get us into some tricky philosophical stuff. Instead I will only say that by each of us helping those in need in whatever capacity we can, by doing this we increase the happiness of the whole world. And who wouldn’t want to live in a happier, more compassionate world? Of course we all would, but it all has to start with each of us doing our part.
Compassion for Those Undeserving
“But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?”
― Mark Twain
You might be thinking that there are those for whom compassion is undeserved. I would have to say I disagree with that. I believe the people who we have decided are too mean, uncaring, unmerciful, or out right evil, are the people who are most in need of compassion. I would argue that they got that way from a lack of compassion shown to then in the first place. Or maybe they were taught that compassion is the same as weakness. They only need to be shown the joy that can come from each of us choosing to care about our fellow human beings.
I think these people operate from a place of ignorance. They have bought in to the lie that each of us stands alone in this world and that we should use other human beings as a means to our own ends. They do not see themselves in others and so cannot feel true love for anyone but themselves. On some level they don’t believe other people could have the same wants and needs or feel the same hurts and sorrows.
Showing a someone that other people are deserving of their consideration and compassion is a hard thing to do. They cannot easily see past the gains they have received by trampling on others. They cannot easily see that there is so much more to be gained from kindness. That cannot easily see that a joy that is shared is the best kind of joy there is. We have to make special efforts to change their minds but that effort starts with showing them compassion first.
We have to lead them back to love through example. Once they feel the gratitude of compassion shown they can make the leap to feeling the joy of compassion given.
Compassion for Yourself
“If your compassion does not include yourself, It is incomplete”
We all know self-compassion is quite a hard thing to accomplish. For many of use caring for friends and family is easier that caring for the ourselves. We believe that self-love is arrogant and self-indulgent. We believe that we don’t deserve to love ourselves but we do. I want the world to be a kinder and happier place but it isn’t yet and for some of us love and kindness is not something we can get from others, so we must give it to ourselves.
Self compassion means not being so hard on yourself. It means knowing yourself and not judging yourself. It means forgiving yourself and helping yourself get up and try again. It means comforting yourself and protecting yourself. It means doing all the things you want someone else to do for you, for yourself.
Do not think that you are undeserving of your own love. Each of us is equally entitled to feeling loved and cared for in this world and the best place to find it is within your own mind and heart. It is easier said than done, I know, but with awareness and practice you can get there. Just look for the good inside yourself and treat yourself as you would anyone else you love. That is all it takes.
Self-compassion is so important. All other acts of true compassion come after one has learned compassion for one’s self. You cannot truly love others without first loving yourself. Any love without self-love is a selfish one, even if only on a subconscious level. In order to truly make this world a better place we have to start by treating ourselves better, then extending that feeling outward and onto others.
“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”
— Christopher Germer
It is the easiest thing in the world to just love and be kind. All you have to do is forget what you think you know about who deserves compassion and who doesn’t. Forget everything you we taught about how other who are not like you should be treated. Start over and look at every human being as someone who is in need of, and deserving of, love.
Do that and I am telling you, your heart will grow and fill with an intense need to relieve the ills of the world too. Imagine if everyone instantly felt that way. Imagine how wonderful life on this planet could be.
Now go back and imagine that it all started with you.
This post was done in participation with the #1000speak for Compassion event. The aim is to get at least 1000 bloggers from all over the world to come together to talk about compassion, all one one day, February 20, 2015.