What is compassion? We use that word often… “Be compassionate – he lost his mother.” Or, “Have some compassion, she is sick.” But compassion is not about pity or simply being nice to someone. It is something deeper; it’s about being able to understand to some degree how another person feels, and using that empathy to want to help them in some way. Webster defines it as, “Sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”.
Who taught us compassion? Was there a particular person or maybe a character in a book or movie? What stories do we remember, or what memories of how a person acted inspired us to emulate them? Who do we want to be more like from our childhood or from our memories because something deep within us knows that their actions made a real difference?
Compassion matters. Why? Not only because it makes the receiver feel better, but because it somehow, almost magically, changes us! We feel better BECAUSE WE ACTED THAT WAY. Is the quality of compassion in each and every one of us? Are we born with it? Or does it come from certain circumstances we find ourselves in? Can we be taught it? I think we are born to transform suffering. But the seeds of compassion need to be watered to grow. Certain experiences stimulate compassion to grow.
But compassion has enemies: fear, moral outrage, and pity! We seem to live in a society that is paralyzed with fear and in that fear our capacity to be compassionate is paralyzed. We need to stop acting out of fear and realize that fear causes US harm. Whereas, compassion is good for us. There are real benefits to practicing compassion. Neuroscientists at Emory University say that it hooks up all parts of the brain and enhances our immune systems.
So why not actualize compassion through direct action? Come out of your cave and into the world! Practice caring and support to others, and you may just find your life flourishing with more peace and happiness.