In the past year, I have really clicked with the idea of living compassionately. Life is hard, we all know this. Even if we live with privilege, have not experienced a major trauma, do not live in poverty, we all have days that are a struggle. Simply remembering that everyone has these days is the starting point of living compassionately.
Compassion and empathy are close friends. An empathetic person will understand what someone is going through and therefor want to be compassionate and help. A compassionate person can wish to alleviate another’s pain and try harder to empathize to do so.
That is not to say we all need to be mind-readers. I personally think that an important part of being compassionate is admitting that we don’t really know exactly what any one else is thinking or feeling. Nor can we assume their pain or joy is triggered in the same way as ours.
However, we can always take the time to ask what people what they are going through, to offer a safe, non-judgemental (that bit’s important), space to share anything they want to share with us.
Action – An important part of the definition of compassion is the desire to help. The desire to act. Action can be on a local level, perhaps comforting a friend in need, or it can have a wider scope, perhaps petitioning a company or government to stop unfair and harmful practices.
Self-compassion – Don’t expect yourself to be perfect. You’re not. No one is. Get over it. In our fast-paced, super critical world, it can be easy to tell ourselves we have no time for emotion, that we need to be better, better, better. But we all deserve kindness no matter what, yes even on days where we somehow manage to lock ourselves out of our own house. It is also vital we allow ourselves space to feel. Veggies, physical activity, and emotional processing. That’s what the doctor ordered.
And just a note that self-compassion is a long-term game. Like a parent, we should aim to give ourselves what is good for us, not necessarily always what we want. Maxing out several credit cards because “we deserve it” isn’t being kind to ourselves in the long run. We shouldn’t be too harsh on ourselves for wanting shiny new things because, well, we are only human. But we will thank ourselves for not buying them when we need the money for car repairs next month. Yeah, I know it’s a lot to remember. If you are confused. Don’t worry. Remember, compassion, I’m not judging. Okay?
Pitfalls of compassion – It can be overwhelming when we tap into our compassionate side and realize just how much suffering there is in the world to alleviate. But it is not our responsibility to resolve everything. If we simply try our best to practice compassion in our day to day interactions, we are making the world a better place. The other side of the coin is that we can excuse too much bad behavior because, “Well they must have just been going through a hard time.” Remember hurtful behaviour hurts, yes it may originate from a place of pain or insecurity, but this does not mean we have to give everyone permanent free pass. It may mean, however, that we change the way we respond to people. So instead of acting spitefully and seeking revenge to those that dare to cross us, we can be calm and kind, and still honestly let people know their behaviour is hurtful to us.
Remember, if we are kind to ourselves first, this will give us much more energy to send compassion to the rest of the world.
Author: Brigitte Nicolas
Author Bio: Brigitte is a trained journalist, born, raised, and living in the U.K. She currently works in content marketing, is attempting to write her first novel and is kept alive by yoga.
Link to social media or website: Instagram @brigitte_is_writing