Be kind, be nice, make sure you love, make sure you share, make sure you listen, abandon judgement, be open-minded, be forgiving, and place yourself in their shoes.
These are lessons we are all taught when we are young. Our teachers may be in school or in fact our parents and grandparents at home, but they all emphasise the same life lessons. Everyone would want to live in utopia. Of course, the definition of such a place is up for personal interpretation, and you couldn’t possibly make everyone happy, but the majority of the world wishes to live in a place where people are compassionate. So we tell our children what they should do, how they should act, and we send them out hoping that they will be the kinder, nicer, more loving and forgiving versions of ourselves. But what exactly is compassion?
Compassion is defined as “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others” (Oxford Dictionary). It was surprising definition. I didn’t expect the word ‘pity‘ to be in there. However, it’s a definition which highlights the truth behind the act of compassion.
Most of us are capable of feeling compassion towards someone who is suffering, because we are able to feel their terrible situation and immediately wish to help them rise out of it. When you read an article or hear a piece of news that something sad has happened to someone, you read and listen to their story with your emotions, with your heart. You would never wish it upon anyone. I believe that it is easy for us to feel compassion in such situations, because at our core we are beings ruled by emotions. When we are surrounded by happy, laughing, giggling and excited people – we feel positive too! But if we’re surrounded by sadness, upset, anguish and hopelessness – we cannot maintain our positivity and find ourselves reflecting the negative situation with our emotions. And that’s exactly what the traditional definition of compassion is – it is the ability to reflect back the feelings of sadness and concern when faced with someone going through those emotions, and forming a connection unlike anything else. To act in a compassionate way is to fight through the negativity and allow yourself to become involved so that you may provide them with the support necessary to relieve some of their pain. Compassion is truly a great thing, and we are right to want to see it in everyone, because it gives each of us to shine like the baby angels we all want to be. But like I said, it’s easy to be compassionate when something is not going right for a person other than ourselves. It can be very hard to remain a compassionate soul when the tables turn.
Try to forget the traditional definition for a minute – it’s all semantics right? Try to recall when you last had something bad happen to you, and remember the emotions you felt when you looked at people around you. Could you be happy for them? Whilst you were suffering or in a situation of misfortune, were you able to sincerely congratulate them? Was it easy to look at their happy faces and laugh with them?
The answer is probably no (if you said yes, you are a fabulous star!). The truth is, it is hard to be proud and happy of someone else’s achievements if you are not in a similar situation. And who can blame you? After all, we have all been there, licking our wounds, growling at the world dancing by, finding everyone not wallowing like you, pretty annoying. It’s these types of situations when it is the hardest to be full of compassion, but it is the most important time to attempt it. We all live in our own bubble – bad things happen to us, good things happen to us, and through talking and sharing we are able to connect with other bubbles. Ultimately, it is through those connections that we bring a deeper meaning to our soap-opera dramas and are able to enjoy them that much more.
Compassion is a strong word, with even stronger connotations. It allows us to lend a hand when someone should need it in troublesome times, but it should also encourage us to clap with those same hands when something wonderful happens to our neighbour. It is one of those things in life which you can turn into a habit – try to be compassionate towards everyone you meet! You may just find it getting easier each time, with your heart growing stronger with each compassionate act!