What is Compassion?
Compassion can be defined as a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Synonyms for compassion are gratitude, kindness, benevolence, understanding, sensitivity, and concern.
In an article found in the Greater Good Magazine, sponsored by Berkeley University, compassion means “to suffer together.” Emotion researchers suggest it is a feeling you have when confronted with the suffering of another and you are motivated to relieve that suffering.
Although closely related, compassion is different than empathy. Empathy is feeling the emotions of another. Compassion is when those feelings encourage one to help another.
According to zenhabits.net, there are physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of practicing compassion in your life. Scientific studies suggest that compassion increases a hormone that counteracts the aging process as well as reduces a stress hormone. Emotionally, compassion fosters happiness for yourself as well as the happiness of those on the receiving end of your compassion. The website Spirituality and Practice compares compassion to opening your heart. When we practice compassion, our capacity to care increases. This is good exercise for our heart muscle.
There are several exercises to help you with your practice of compassion. One of these is to begin each morning with meditation, contemplation, or a mantra. This will give you a mindset or a philosophy to approach your day and your interactions with those whose paths you intersect. In the evening, spend a moment to reflect upon the encounters of your day. Did you succeed with what you intended to achieve? Another popular method for improving your compassion is performing acts of kindness or even random acts of kindness. Random Acts of Kindness is a great site that offers ideas and suggestions for these types of endeavors.
Another strategy for increasing your compassion is developing your empathy. My father would often cite some variation of a common quote, “you never know how someone else feels until you walk a mile in their shoes.” Imagine this phrase, for a moment, if it helps you to feel what another is feeling. This feeling of empathy may spark your compassion. A closely related concept to practicing empathy is recognizing commonalities between yourself and others. How often have you heard the phrase that “we are all one?” Focus on how we are all the same, as humans, in some regard. Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for humans. On some basic level, we are all the same with similar motivations. How can we connect to one another through our common characteristics as opposed to focusing on what makes us different? You very well may have had the same feeling as another and the recognition of that feeling may inspire you to empathize and feel compassion and want to help.
There are certainly other courses of action in addition to the few I’ve outlined. Perhaps you can spend some time contemplating what compassion means to you. And, possibly, you can share your thoughts with others in the form of education or engaging in acts of kindness for those in your circle of friends and family, and even towards animals and nature.
Peace, Love & Compassion
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
“Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.”
“There never was any heart truly great and generous, that was not also tender and compassionate.”
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”