“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.” ~ Taher Mafi, Shatter Me
What does being compassionate to others and yourself look, feel and, or sound like to you? Do you consider yourself to be a compassionate person? Really?
Okay well let me ask this other question, how would your life be different if you mastered the art of being compassionate?
I am sure you will agree that we can all do with a lot more compassion and kindness from our family members, our peers and even the stranger that we meet along the road, right?
I know I can and let’s hope you do too.
Not only that, what a wonderful world it would be if people can find it in them to be more compassionate to each other. Amazing, won’t it?
Many of us in Christian-dom we study the Bible and we read about the times when Jesus was clearly tired and worn out from travelling around long distances yet, He unwaveringly showed amazing compassion to the lost, the sick, and for the entire world.
“When he [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and he healed their sick.” ~ Matthew 14:14
Here’s yet another question. Do we measure up so that we too have that level of compassion like He did?
Now as I began to research and write this article, I discovered that the roots of compassion go much deeper than I had been practicing, and it now appears what I had been doing all along merely ‘scratched’ the surface of things.
Maybe you too can identify with that as well. Well, let’s see.
What Research Revealed
Dictionary definitions have defined the root word compassion [noun] to mean ‘having a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.’
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia, as to the meaning: “Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help physical, spiritual, or emotional hurts or pains of another. Compassion is often regarded as having an emotional aspect to it, though when based on cerebral notions such as fairness, justice and interdependence, it may be considered rational in nature and its application understood as an activity based on sound judgment.”
There is however, a body of research that shows being kind and compassionate are the foundation and core skills that shape our relationship with each other and help us to create caring and loving communities.
Compassion is the basis of our humanity, but more so it is the basis of morality. It is about empathizing with the other person and ‘suffering together.’ Tweet this.
It goes beyond saying you will pray for the person. When compassion is deeply evoked into your heart, it motivates you to follow quickly with an action in relative proportion or even above and beyond to relieve the suffering of others. Compassion is considered to be among the greatest of all virtues.
In Zechariah 7:10 it says“Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in heart.”
Essentially what this bible verse is telling us is that we are not to withhold our benevolence, goodness, kindness and empathy from those considered to be poor [physically or in spirit], the orphans, those who are truly widows and even among ourselves.
I came across this very interesting story in this article written by Kavetha Sundarmoorthy, a psychiatrist, who shared her story of how her life changed for the better a few years ago after her brother was diagnosed with a serious mental illness. As the mental health professional in the family, she said she took a long break to navigate him through the initial stages of treatment.
Not only did she learn that compassion is hard work, she learned that it is more than being nice to someone a few minutes or hours in a day.
Compassion is much like sympathy in that it stems from the suffering of another, but it also includes the need or desire to alleviate suffering (Eisenburg, N. 2002) Empathy-related emotional responses, altruism, and their socialization
The Dalai Lama’s thought on compassion summarizes it best when he said, “compassion is a necessity, not a luxury,” and that without it humanity cannot survive.
“Be kind, for every one you meet is fighting a harder battle.” ~ Plato
Toxic Behaviors That Makes Us Less Than Compassionate
1.) Busy talking but not listening
There are many persons out there who all they ever want from us is to be listened to but instead, we are busy talking or while they are speaking, we are already formulating our response and judgment about that person and are only waiting for that little window of opportunity to interject.
Social media for example has reached a sore point of information overload from people of different walks of life. As bloggers, we do all that we can to get our posts out onto every platform there is with the hope that our followers will not only listen to what we have to say, but to participate by either commenting or sharing.
But think for a moment how we treat each other as bloggers. My observation is that we are busy talking and already have our select few of whose blog we will comment on or whose posts we will share, forgetting that someone else is there with great information if only we take the time to listen and participate in what that person has to say.
It’s nothing more than favoritism in the blogosphere.
A huge part of being compassionate though is our mindfulness and awareness to the needs of others around us. Listening attentively is all it takes sometimes to turn someone’s life around.
2.) Constant self-criticism
Today we face intense and increasing pressures to live by the rules of society. It can be tough because society wants us to be perfect, or at least that is what it is teaching. We are pressured to be the best, win at any cost and work harder because the notion is that doing these things will bring us success.
Nothing is wrong with pursuing such objectives in life but the problem comes in when you keep pushing yourself hard and still not reaching the bar, you consistently become self-critical and your objectives rather than helping, they stand in your way.
3.) Not ever reaching out to the other person that you are aware of having a specific need
Believe it or not, many of us our subconscious being is very much in touch with our present day realities. We see things going on, we are aware that someone has a specific need but we are so used to others not knowing what we are thinking [except we ourselves reveal it] that we constantly get away with ignoring people who are in need.
It’s a don’t care kind of attitude and when we do that the bible describes us as shutting up our ‘bowels’ of mercy and compassion from the other person.
4.) Grabbing on to more wealth than you’ll ever have need for over the course of your life
It is fair to say that the more wealth you have the more likely you are to act fair and decent in society, right? Another assumption is that the one most likely to be dishonest, break the law, cheat and steal is the poor man who will stop at nothing to get some little thing for him, right?
Well not so fast! In fact research suggests quite the opposite is true in that the higher up people climb the social ladder; there is a decline in their compassionate feelings towards others. In fact Berkeley psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner ran a number of studies to determine whether or not social class (measured by wealth, occupational prestige and education) had any influence on how much we care about the feelings of others.
In another related set of studies Keltner and his colleagues found in one study that the people who are not so affluent are more likely to report feelings of compassion towards others than those who are wealthy. Greed is an emotion that is universal yet somehow it has the strongest pull in the direction of those who are already wealthy.
5.) Inflict pain and suffering on others to maintain power and control to yourself
This is especially true for some persons who have climbed the corporate ladder and are either in senior positions or are business owners. Workers are treated unfairly, they get unfair wages and they are given long hours to work without ever being compensated for it.
They constantly use threatening language to their staff to get them to comply with requests that are unreasonable and unethical. Workers constantly feel intimidated and are fearful of loosing their jobs.
You may be saying well I am not the boss or you are not in a senior position, but then indirectly you participate by not speaking up or speaking out against the wrongdoing.
Being compassionate means empathizing with the ones that are suffering and doing all that is humanly possible to relieve the other person of their suffering to the extent where you are willing to lay down your own life for that person.
Scientific Benefits of Compassion [Infographic]
Here’s an awesome infographic compiled by Emma Seppala, Ph.D, Associate Director Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research & Education. In it she has presented 10 scientific benefits of compassion.
Quite notably is that each resource personnel referenced in this infographic had one common theme in that of happiness as a fulfillment. Compassion is not only good for others but that it’s good for us with an overall improvement in our behavior.
source for infographic
In case you missed it, read also: Top Bible Quotes About God’s Compassion And Love
What has been some of your experiences as far as it relates to being compassionate?
Have you ever been in a situation where you really felt that another person treated you unfairly or with disrespect and was not compassionate towards you?
Can compassion be taught or i this something we are born with naturally? Share your thoughts in the comment form below this post.
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Stay connected! Stay tuned for part 2 where we discuss more benefits of compassion and what can be done to assist us with correcting the undesirable behaviors
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