The world needs more compassion. A bold statement indeed, yet I’m sure that many of you would agree with that statement. Empathy is the ability to feel what another person is feeling and compassion takes it one step further through action to help alleviate suffering. When I was a child, my first major lesson involving compassion occurred when two homeless teenage girls came to live with my family.
To complicate the situation, one of the teens was pregnant. It was my mother who encountered the teens and had learned about their plight. She invited them for dinner and through circumstances they ended up living with my family for well over a month. They stayed with my family until they could get permanent help. They teens eventually with my mother’s help found an apartment and the pregnant girl had a beautiful healthy baby.
I believe that having that experience early in my life permeated my consciousness and left a deep imprint. It informed some of the volunteer work that I do as I believe that it’s important to give back to the community. The experience helped me to realize even at a young age that on some level, call it the spiritual level, we are all connected. If we’re connected, then it makes sense to reach out to our fellow human beings in times of need.
We can perform compassionate acts, yet compassion really is a practice. Just as we can have an exercise routine or a meditation practice, the same applies to compassion. The more that we exercise our “compassion muscle,” the easier it will be for us to be compassionate. I believe that compassion can teach us several life lessons. The first one is that compassion involves a willingness to be open to see pain or suffering in our midst. Helping someone may not be as dramatic as helping two homeless teens get off the street. It could be in our homes, workplaces or among our circle of friends where compassion is needed. It is easy to get insular and not be concerned about people who may be going through a difficult time.
Another lesson that compassion teaches us is to be nonjudgmental with the people that we are reaching out to or trying to help. When we act compassionately we do the best that we can in the situation and then as much as possible detach from the outcome. Lastly, being compassionate teaches us to operate from our hearts and not the rational mind. You may encounter a situation where it does not seem rational to act yet your heart is compelling you to move in that direction. I invite you to look for those moments in your life where you can be compassionate because you never know the life changing impact that you can have in another person’s life.
As published in Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of a Woman (October 2016 issue)