A friend of mine posted on Facebook “What breeds compassion?” I love this question. If we are looking for compassion in our lives one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is what can I do to offer compassion. First let’s define what compassion is and isn’t. Compassion is empathy, listening, support, asking what you can do to help the person through action, words, touch or time. Compassion is not feeling bad for someone, asking what they are doing wrong, trying to fix it for them or judging them. When we show someone compassion we create a space for them to be in their truth without judgement and when we are shown compassion we can come to the table without defensiveness and can show compassion in return.
So many of us are feeling a lot of negative emotions right now- fear, loss, confusion and uncertainty. How can we “breed compassion” in the midst of these emotions? One step at a time! Take the time to offer yourself compassion first, then others, then compassion to the thing or person that you are having difficulty with.
When we feel that we are receiving compassion when we feel seen, heard and loved. So how do you feel those things? Acknowledge what you are feeling and going through. See yourself in your dynamic, full paradoxical self. Ask yourself what you need to feel held and seen. Do for yourself what will fill your cup and/ or seek out the people who support that for you. When we are able to show ourselves compassion the compassion we show others becomes more authentic. It can be hardest to show ourselves compassion because we often judge ourselves harder than anyone else can judge us. Compassion is not loving someone because they are without fault, it is loving them in the full spectrum of who they are. The wounded pieces of ourselves that can create our shortcomings are the pieces that need compassion the most. How can you love your “unlovable” parts? Compassion.
For many of us, showing others compassion is easier than showing compassion to ourselves. Being compassionate to others gives them the platform to show up in an authentic and honest way. Having compassion is not saying that they are perfect or that some unacceptable behaviors are ok. Rather, it is saying “I see you in your complex humanity and you are lovable, you are worthy”. Imagine how this can transform shame. When I am in a shame place I am not showing up to express my love or passion. When I am in shame, I am judging myself so harshly that I fear being seen. When I am shown compassion in this place I become comfortable enough to look at this piece of me and transform it into something that can serve me and others. I believe we are born love, out of love and into our expression of love. This love is at the root of our desire for connection and when we show others compassion we are inviting a human connection as opposed to judgements that separate us. Connection says we are alike; this is compassion.
The hardest things/people to show compassion to can be the things/people that we fear or possibly even hate. How do we show compassion to the person who so completely lives in disregard to everything around them? How do we show compassion to the things or people that do things that directly cause us harm? Now this is a touchy subject. I by no means believe that people should ever accept abuse or harmful behavior from someone under the guise of forgiveness or compassion. For my own spirit and mental balance, I may hold compassion for that person. In my early 20’s I spent 1 ½ years in an abusive relationship. For most of that time I held myself in shame which made excuses for my abuser. Today I hold compassion for him in my heart. I have not seen or spoken to him in 12 years but I know he is a wounded soul. My compassion shows me that because he was raised in an extremely physically and sexually violent home he had no choice to learn these things as a child (which does not excuse him for not learning a different thing as an adult). I have heard that he is still living the same life he was when I was with him. He is miserable, self-hating, self-destructive and lost. I don’t know if he will ever find love for or from others, yet I pray he will because just as you are part of me, he is part of me, we are all connected. Through seeing the connections of everything we can find compassion for everything. Through this compassion, I can look at my abuser and know that he acted out of fear and when I am in a place of fear I can also present from a place of anger. The seeds are within all of us- we are all human.
When we are compassionate to ourselves, our loved ones and our “enemies” we open a healing within us that promotes healing and humanity in our relationships and the world. I think of the saying “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” and I think humanity is that chain. Every link I help make stronger, the chain becomes stronger. Every link I make weaker, the chain becomes weaker. What do I want to do with my tools and abilities? What differences can I make in my family, my relationships, the world, this chain of humanity? What changes can I make within myself by using compassion? My hope for the world is that you have compassion for yourself, that is the starting place of a true revolution!