The question is not if we have compassion but when are we going to use it. The reason why some people are better than others is because they practice the skills they have over and over until they achieve mastery. So, if we all have this tool in our possession, how do we activate it, how do we utilize it, and most especially how do we use it as tool for change? Our society in recent years has become more polarized. Looking into history, polarization has been a part of who we are as humans. We are polarized over sport, food, clothing, relationships… the list is endless.
If our polarization continues to be a driving force in how we live as humans we would not be able to achieve anything or break any new ground. Our civilization has been made possible by our ability to come together, make meaningful connections, put our heads together and fight a common enemy. When we do this, we are activating the power of compassion. I know you might be tired of hearing the word compassion over and over again but before you go into your phone and get distracted by notifications in the process of searching for meaning let me give you the dictionary definition:
Compassion: gives us the ability to understand someone else’s situation and the desire to take action to improve their lives. … For people who are dependent on others for help and support, compassion is often the most important factor in allowing them to lead fulfilling lives.
Yes, you see one key factor in activating your compassion is your ability to empathize and not sympathize. Sympathy is good-for-nothing at this point because feeling pity for someone is different than empathy, which is putting yourself in that person’s proverbial shoe and seeing how it pinches them. There is no human who at one point of their life has not thought about the possibility of someone close to them seeing the situation from the same perspective they have.
The danger of not activating this tool is far greater than accepting the fact that we are humans and one thing that bind us together is our connection to other human beings. The most cost-efficient way to do this is to try and see people struggle as much as you would want someone to do the same for you when you are in need of that.
WHY DO WE NEED COMPASSION?
The definition of compassion has made a case for itself on why we need compassion, but let’s pretend we are naive to the fact laid out above. Follow this simple instruction at home with your friend, spouse or your relative: Reach into your pocket for a dollar or any physical note you have in your pocket, stretch out the note horizontally facing your partner. Then ask them to make a case of what you see on your side and see how incorrect their description of it will be., it enables us not just to see but to understand the reasons why people might be in need of our help and we can be of help to them not because we totally understand them but we get why they might be in need of our assistance.
HOW TO ACTIVATE YOUR COMPASSION
Relationships are the bedrock of our society. One key way we can activate our compassion is to form relationships with people which can foster opportunity to be of help to them. I will use myself as a case study here, before I arrived in the United States, I was a pastor of a Pentecostal church with the teachings and doctrine of the church. I read the Bible but only thought Jews were people in the old testament. When I arrived in the United States, I became friends with so many Jewish people and I began to recognize that my understanding of Jewish people was pretty basic or none. I believed nobody born in America could suffer persecution until I saw in real life how Jewish people are experiencing discrimination. I began to empathize with them because I am a member of a minority group too. Jewish people came here to seek refuge and faced hardship. Not only did I feel connected to them as a refugee myself, I now see that our struggles were similar. I might not see it this way if not for the relationship that brought about exposure and awareness.
The way to use relationship to activate your compassion is by looking for communities you are not familiar with and building relationship with them.
Biases: There are numerous biases that inhibit our ability to activate our compassion, and most of them have become so ingrained in us that we almost feel they’re based in biology. The most common bias is the frequent exposure bias; this is why some people believe that their experience is superior, be it race, sexual orientation, or gender. The more we get exposed to an idea the more convincing it is to us. If you can think about your life experiences, be it a time you made something work or you got a job in a job interview, do you ever think of the other people that did not? About their qualifications and background? No; most of us do not care about that, but when you did not get the job, do you think they did not consider you because you are not good or do you blame it on your race, sex, body weight, level of education, and so on? If it works for us that the interviewer went to same college with us, or they support the same sport team, it is fine; but if it does not, it is discrimination. Why does this idea of discrimination come to your mind? Because you have been exposed to the idea of nepotism, work place discrimination, and so on.
So here is what will help you on your biases: when you want to make a decision, it would be wise to take a moment and pause. Ask yourself why you’re making this decision. Is this the best decision or the one you have been most exposed to? Especially when you are in the position of hiring, you don’t have to always hire people that went to the same university as you or watch the same game show as you.
We can activate our compassion in our personal lives, in our relationships, and in our workplaces.