We’re in week three of seven of these writing prompts. This week it’s about harmony — or balance — and compassion. Here’s the introductory post about it, in which I said that my inspiration was the Jewish tradition of counting days between one particular holiday to the next (I’m simplifying), the concept of self-reflection is universal.
I’ve been thinking about what I can say about compassion that I haven’t already. I’m mostly free-writing today. I’m not sure if it will be 100% coherent, and I’m okay with that today.
Compassion for the environment
There’s this environmentalist challenge:
Find a way to gently encourage the people you love, live with, work with, to give up or take on practices that help create a healthier and more sustainable world.
I do occasionally educate people by sharing resources on social media. I use my green and blue bins. I take my own bags to stores when I remember. I try to limit my waste. I could take on a no-plastic challenge or similar, and encourage others to join me. I won’t, but I could. You could.
On that note: This Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day.
Kindness vs. compassion
I read this:
What is the difference between kindness and compassion?
Kindness gives to another
Compassion knows no ‘other’.
I really like that. Kindness is an act. It’s an amazing act that can change the recipient’s life for the better — and the giver’s. Compassion is feeling that involves understanding another being. One piece I read referred to using compassion to understand people and their suffering, and that it can be humbling.
In kindness, a person may feel sorry for some person but will not reflect the suffering person’s feelings. But with compassion, a person may have the same feelings as that of the suffering person. A person having compassion will have the same feeling of happiness or sadness as that of others.
It’s similar to the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is a feeling for a person (e.g. feeling sorry for them, pity), empathy is sharing the feelings- putting yourself in their shoes and/or having experienced the same or similar in the past. Understanding their feelings.
Compassion without ego is humbling. Compassion with ego isn’t completely genuine. It lacks empathy. It’s not bad, it’s just not necessarily complete. Some people exercise compassion out of a feeling of guilt. Maybe they feel like they don’t do enough for their kids, their friends or the planet and so their compassion is a way to score self-acceptance points or points in the afterlife. This isn’t bad either. We’re ego-driven humans with a hierarchy of needs. We need validation and to feel safe. Although we often strive to quiet our ego, it’s perfectly normal for our egos to intrude and it’s not a bad thing. Our ego often wants to protect us.
“Compassion” as a way to “take the high road” or “be the bigger (wo)man”? Those are ego-driven and inauthentic. “Killing them with kindness” is inauthentic. I do this. Every time I think, “I need this compassion thing to work and triumph over that person because goddamn it, love always freakin’ wins” it’s my ego. Compassion is not a board game that’s won or lost. People aren’t pieces on a game board.
Authentic compassion is absolutely being there with a person while putting aside any judgment of their experience. Real compassion is seeing another human as no better or worse than you. They might be a vile human being, but we’re the same species. Brains, bodies, emotions (for the most part). If I were to get all spiritual about it I could say that we’re all part of spirit, or whatever. We were all born innocent before life messes with us, before our self-esteem is formed, before we visit the baggage store of life and before we get messed up in our own way (some of us more so than others).
Helping people so that you can feel good isn’t bad. It builds self-esteem. Being absolutely selfless is rare.
We should all be kind, and compassionate. We should be gracious to those who challenge us.
We need to be kind and compassionate towards ourselves.
General life advice and my challenge:
- Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend
- When you feel a limiting belief or fear-based thought think this: “What better thought can I have right now?” (I credit that one to Gabrielle Bernstein)
- When you’re faced with a challenging person ask yourself what you can learn from the situation
- Compassion towards others, including jerks, doesn’t mean “be a doormat”. Assert yourself. In the words of Veronica Mars, “ You want people to leave you alone, or better yet treat you with respect? Demand it. Make them.” You deserve respect
- Perform a random act of kindness in the next 24 hours. It’s up to you whether or not the act is anonymous.
- Via The Meaningful Life Center: In middle of the busy day take a moment and call someone that needs a compassionate word. Defend someone who is in need of sympathy even if it’s not a popular position.
To that I add: Jump to someone’s aid on Facebook or Twitter. Or in your next business meeting, when you notice that someone in the group isn’t being heard, validate them and see if you can help them get their voice heard.
That’s all I’ve got today, just under the wire for Tuesday.
Feel free to share your thoughts below.