5 Important Facts About Showing Compassion To Others.

31201858477_6f26de7eed_oEdward Hopper – Chop Suey [1929]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“All life deserves respect, dignity, and compassion.”
 Anthony Douglas

What is the difference between kindness and compassion? They are close in meaning, but compassion may be defined as a feeling of caring and empathy towards another’s suffering, whereas kindness is about helping others.

Perhaps compassion involves deeper, inner feelings and more personal identification than kindness, in that we can be kind to another person and help them, without necessarily experiencing similar feelings.

For example, a neighbour might help a sick person by doing her shopping. That is kindness. If she then sits with the ill person and listens to her with real empathy and feeling for her plight, that is compassion.

Compassion does involve a strong understanding and fellow-feeling. It is a set of emotions within us, whereas kindness tends to be an outwardly focussed act.

59.533.1845Thomas Rowlandson (1800 ) Compassion.Wikimedia Commons.

  1. It Is Within All Our Capabilities to Be Compassionate

27266756826_425503d811_oSteven Assael – Andrea [2014] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Leo Buscaglia

We can all develop some compassion; perhaps it starts with being more compassionate to oneself. Unless we value and care for ourselves, we cannot be caring towards others.

Once we feel more confident in loving ourselves, we can turn this empathy outwards and focus on the connections we share with others.

This, of course, is easier said than done, and it may be that psychotherapy or counselling is needed to help with self-esteem and developing empathy for oneself.

If we constantly judge ourselves, we will inevitably judge others and compassion goes out of the window.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

 Jack Kornfield

Learning to listen, to our own needs and those of others, is a crucial step in the development of authenticity and compassion.

“As we grow in our consciousness, there will be more compassion and more love, and then the barriers between people, between religions, between nations will begin to fall. Yes, we have to beat down the separateness.”

Ram Dass

“Where there is no human connection, there is no compassion. Without compassion, then community, commitment, loving-kindness, human understanding, and peace all shrivel. Individuals become isolated, the isolated turn cruel, and the tragic hovers in the forms of domestic and civil violence. Art and literature are antidotes to that.”

Susan Vreeland

“Wounding and healing are not opposites. They’re part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to to find other people or to even know they’re alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of.”

Rachel Naomi Remen

2. It Is An Illusion To Think Only You Are Struggling.

50340007178_8cb30a4abf_oElie Anatole Pavil – Au Café. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Let our hearts be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path.”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Life is not easy for anyone. We all struggle. Even those who appear to be ‘fine’ or ‘tough’ have difficult periods in their lives.

In fact, they may be the ones who need our compassion the most, as they obviously cannot reveal or share their pain.

49976118431_801b0d5903_oEdward Hopper – Intermission [1963]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Understanding others, with compassion, may sometimes be tricky, especially if they tend to behave in ways that feel difficult.

“Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them.”

Bill Ayers

If we can have some insight into what lies behind their behaviour, in a compassionate way, this sometimes makes it easier to relate to others with more empathy.

“True love is born from understanding.”
The Buddha

50410801281_02910a7d59_oBernard Fleetwood-Walker – Auntie [c.1946]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”

Shannon L. Alder

50187493146_f6ab095c74_oJohn Singer Sargent – The Black Brook [c1908]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Each person you meet
is an aspect of yourself,
clamoring for love.”

Eric Micha’el Leventhal

3. The World Sometimes Lacks Compassion.

50332917957_b0be7d58a6_oDavid Drebin – Eyes Closed [2005]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Humankind seems to have an enormous capacity for savagery, for brutality, for lack of empathy, for lack of compassion.”

Annie Lennox

Perhaps sometimes, things might get too much for us, and others’ problems just seem to add to that overload.

Many of us may be self-absorbed, finding it hard enough to cope. Empathising with the pain of others when one feels burnt out and anxious is often not possible.

The pandemic and the resulting economic problems and other hardships, has meant that many people feel overwhelmed and can barely manage their own lives.

On the other hand, in this quick-fix era, many people are too focussed on making a living and pushing forward in their lives to take the time to care about others.

In addition, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, are examples of the terrible hostility many have to endure, in a world that can be full of hatred for difference and diversity.

Such extremism involves a total lack of anything vaguely resembling compassion,  a host of disowned projections regurgitated from some people’s own dark inner world.

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

Pema Chödrön

Sadly, some human failings tend to get repeated over the years; it is as if people do not move on with wisdom into compassion, taking notice of the past.

“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”

Georg Hegel.

“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”

Abraham Joshua Heschel

“Love has no gender – compassion has no religion – character has no race.” Abhijit Naskar

“This transition has been harder on me than anything I could imagine. And that’s the case for so many others besides me. For that reason alone, trans people deserve something vital. They deserve your respect. And from that respect comes a more compassionate community, a more empathetic society, and a better world for all of us.”

Caitlyn Jenner

Externalising blame onto other people is often at the root of such savagery. This prevents people from having to face themselves; it is much easier to see the self as ‘all good’ and the other, especially the one who appears different, as ‘all bad.’

This is a simplistic and unthinking way of being.

“We habitually erect a barrier called blame that keeps us from communicating genuinely with others, and we fortify it with our concepts of who’s right and who’s wrong. We do that with the people who are closest to us and we do it with political systems, with all kinds of things that we don’t like about our associates or our society.”

Pema Chodron.

“It is a very common, ancient, well-perfected device for trying to feel better. Blame others….Blaming is a way to protect your heart, trying to protect what is soft and open and tender in yourself. Rather than own that pain, we scramble to find some comfortable ground.”

 Pema Chodron

4. We Will Benefit From Our Compassion.

Practising compassion certainly makes us feel better, happier, healthier and more fulfilled. This provides a double-plus, for it results in both parties being left happier.

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

John Holmes

26650920232_38a756777c_oEdward Cucuel (1875-1954)- Summer Reflections. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“I believe compassion to be one of the few things we can practice that will bring immediate and long-term happiness to our lives.” 

Dalai Lama

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Dalai Lama

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, and compassion.”

Simone de Beauvoir

5. We Are All Part Of One World.

“When you call me European, I say yes.

When you call me Arab, I say yes.

When you call me black, I say yes.

When you call me white, I say yes.

Because I am in you and you are in me.

We have to inter-be with everything in the cosmos.”

Nhat Hanh

The world belongs to all of us and no-one has more rights to it than anyone else.

Having enough compassion to realise this fact, and to be open to sharing and extending our hospitality to others, is paramount.

So many of the great minds and thinkers in history have come to this same conclusion. Here is a selection of the words of the great and the good on this subject:

“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

Albert Schweitzer

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Mother Teresa

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

Dalai Lama

“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

Albert Einstein

“Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

We share the world with others; it is not ours to own or claim. Thinking that we ‘own’ our country, or our national identity, exclusively, is a myth.

Each of us is a blend of the other, a melange of races and cultures. Instead of thinking in terms of creating outsiders and building fictional divisions, it is important to contemplate commonality.

“When we know ourselves to be connected to all others, acting compassionately is simply the natural thing to do.”

Rachel Naomi Remen

We need to make boundaries between self and another more elastic, translate across vernaculars, offer greeting, help, welcome, invitation, compassion. We need to practise creating spaces to meet, rather than devising methods of exclusion.

“As we grow in our consciousness, there will be more compassion and more love, and then the barriers between people, between religions, between nations will begin to fall. Yes, we have to beat down the separateness.”

Ram Dass

the-meal-the-bananas-1891Gauguin. The Meal.Wordpress.

“The only time you look in your neighbour’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbour’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.”

Louis C.K.


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