Last month I covered the topic of judging less, which actually created a great segue into my next topic of discussion for the crisp month of October. I believe when last we spoke, gentle reader, I speculated that judgment was the result of putting conditions on our compassion. And, that the lack of judgment could lead us to the ultimate, “higher-self” expression of compassion. But what exactly is compassion? What makes up this mystical, transcendent, favorite of mine?
Compassion is the feeling of commonness with our fellow human beings coupled with the willingness to cultivate their happiness and well-being. More than just understanding another’s feelings (pain, distress, and happiness), practicing useful compassion takes empathy and applies grace, forgiveness, comfort and support to the other person in matching tones of the trials and joys they are going through.
Compassion is understanding with acceptance and, if needed, action.
Our lives are busy. We rarely have time to sit down some days let alone set aside designated times for conscious compassionate acts for others.
There are solidly accountable things like volunteering at the animal shelter, cleaning up trash along the highway, working with hospice patients, or helping tutor children. If you can do these things, please do! Find something that is meaningful to you to throw your heart into. Or find the areas in your community that are in most need. (See a need, fill a need).
There is no wrong option when it comes to helping out your fellow humans as long as you do so with an open and compassionate heart.
Volunteering time and resources are wonderful ways to contribute, but some of us simply can’t fit one more “thing” in.
We are doers and movers, workers and runners. We run the world, we run the race, we get things done and move the course of history with our actions and even by our choices of inaction. We vote, we protest, we implement and design. We, all of us, act in our world and therefore influence it through our jobs and lifestyles.
We rarely have a spare moment, so how do we make time for useful (actually does good in the world) compassion?
When I talk about all of the aforementioned things, I don’t do so as though they are in a vacuum, closed off from the compassion inside of you. Nothing has to be closed off to that brimming source of human kindness inside of us. The trick is to use compassion on purpose, to do our normal day–to-day with compassion as the starting point rather than the afterthought.
Example? Okay. Lets say you take the same bus route to work every day, rush to get there, get on, spend the commute looking at your phone or what have you, you get off, go to work, and the day goes on. One day you see an elderly woman crossing the street on your way. Maybe the ice laid down by winter has made her nervous, maybe the uneven sidewalk is hindering her progress, but whatever the case, she is struggling. Today, offer her your hand. Carry her bag. Listen to whatever she wants to talk about, on the walk, on the bus, until you have to part ways again.
How many minutes did you waste slowing down to be more conscious of this human life? The answer: none. No minute spent showing compassion, courtesy and respect, and giving help is ever wasted. You are walking the same path as she is, literally yes, but also figuratively.
Another example of this is to find a few minutes each morning and quietly meditate on what your expectations are for the day and how you can add an element of compassion to each of your tasks and interactions. It can be as simple as being a better listener to your children or co-workers, or as big as signing up for a charity run (www.runforcharity.com) or to build a home for the less fortunate (Habitat For Humanity). If you have to go to the grocery store, offer the clerk a few extra dollars for the next person’s groceries. Leave quarters in the prize machines. Help someone with heavy bags to their car. Let that guy into your lane. Smile at someone, especially if they’re wearing a world of sorrows in their expression.
When a friend or co-worker succeeds in their personal goals and in their life, celebrate and be joyful with them. Avoid jealousy or hurt feelings. Life goes as it does, and other’s happiness is part of our happiness.
Go one step further to make someone else’s life brighter. Useful compassion doesn’t have to cost money, only a little of your time and conscious effort.
If we all do one selfless, compassionate thing a day for another human, we can fill this world with an amazing amount of joy and love. One of the best parts of seeking to be more compassionate towards others is the sense of peace and joy it brings to ourselves.
So whether you’re quitting your job to join the Peace Corps, (https://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/volunteer-openings/) or committing to being more respectful and loving towards others, remember the most important part of practicing compassion:
No compassionate act, done in love, is too small. But you have to do it. You have to practice.
You have to act on it, even when it carries you out of your comfort zone.
I’ll see you out there, making good things happen in the world, greeting each other with empathy and joyful, judgment-free compassion. Let’s do this thing.