Compassion has been creeping up to tap me on the shoulder lately.
While in Aruba over the holidays, I listened to both part 1 and part 2 of Karen Armstrong’s conversation with Oprah on her Super Soul Sunday podcast, which went deep into compassion. During the episode, Karen Armstrong said:
“You are your best self when you give yourself away to other people… if you do, all day and every day look into your own heart, discover what gives you pain, and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever to inflict that pain on anybody else, somehow you achieve new capacities of mind and heart. Just as a dancer who practices and practices for years; once you do it, everything falls into place.”
That episode moved me so much that I decided to make compassion the center of one of my 2019 intentions. “Return more quickly to compassion when I’m upset, frustrated or annoyed,” I wrote.
I thought I’d already failed at it after not even two weeks since the near year began. This past weekend, I indulged my ego and lashed out at someone I care about deeply. Almost immediately, I recognized the damage I’d done and apologized profusely. I know that healing can be found in all situations in which both parties are willing to return to compassion. And that situation is no exception.
But then I realized something profound: I didn’t fail at my intention at all. I bounced back to my true self in record time. And that’s the progress I’m striving for. I won’t always get compassion right, but I can always choose to return to it when I get it wrong.
The reality is that we’re all human. And we all make mistakes. We’re all just trying to do the best we can with what we’ve been handed. Having compassion for yourself and for others is one of the strongest and most direct ways to ditch the path of fear and center yourself back on the path of love. Especially when you make a wrong turn like I did.
When anger creeps in, compassion is the cure.
When judgment takes over, compassion is the cure.
When the humanity of a person slips away and you see him or her as an “other” instead of another, compassion is the cure.
When you start to build walls and lock people out, compassion is the cure.
For all things driven by fear or pain or ego or negativity, compassion is always the answer.
But what is compassion? Why is it important? How can you benefit from it? How can you cultivate it? Read on to find answers to those questions and more. Because compassion can heal. Compassion can help love bloom. Compassion is the cure.
What is compassion?
According to Wikipedia, compassion “motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, mental, or emotional pains of another and themselves.” It goes on to note, “The English noun compassion, meaning to love together with, comes from Latin.”
Here’s how I like to think of compassion. Compassion is watching the sad part of a romantic comedy and really feeling for the struggle that the couple is enduring. Compassion is knowing when you need a spa day at home. Compassion is giving a homeless person food when they ask for it. Compassion sees the flaws in another and forgives them when they make a mistake. Compassion is an emotional bridge between two humans who recognize the tenderness in one another.
Compassion is empathy in action.
Why is compassion important?
As Karen Armstrong mentions in her podcast with Oprah, compassion is the foundation for nearly all of the world’s religions. (Did you know that compassion is mentioned in the Bible some 80+ times?!) The Golden Rule shows up again and again across time, cultural boundaries and territorial lines. And the crux of The Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have done unto you) is compassion.
Truth is, compassion helps you understand the hardships of another. Since we all falter and go through hard times compassion, therefore, strengthens your connection to yourself and the oneness of all things. All of the greatest and highest ideals of the human spirit—forgiveness, acceptance, trust and hope—are based in compassion.
Life can be a struggle. Compassion makes it easier because it shows you that you don’t have to suffer alone. And that’s a comforting truth.
How can compassion improve your life?
Research has shown again and again that compassion can help you lead a happier and healthier life. It’s even been shown to boost your immune system! On a deeper level, compassion can help make the world a more accepting and loving place. Bonus: Compassion may even help you live longer.
Turns out, a little kindness goes a long way in helping elevate yourself and others. Ahh, the power of love!
Eight of my favorite quotes on compassion:
Five ways to cultivate more compassion in your life:
How have you shown compassion to others throughout your life? What are some ways you’ve found that have helped you demonstrate more compassion over the years? Tell me in the comments below—or Tweet me @crackliffe.
For even more essential wisdom, check out 12 Timeless Truths to Live By.
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