Who deserves compassion? Can we draw a line separating those who are worthy from those who are not? Are pedophiles worthy of compassion? How about liars, cheaters, drunk drivers, murderers, drug addicts, or rapists? What about people who are lazy, mentally ill people, selfish, stingy, or rude? How do you decide what makes a person naughty enough to withhold compassion?
If you want to live a peaceful life, I’d suggest that everyone deserves compassion. Withhold it from no one. Why? Aren’t some of these deeds and habits really horrible and unforgivable? It’s true that any deed can be hurtful and cause horrible consequences. Giving compassion doesn’t mean that you release someone from making amends or holding them accountable. It doesn’t mean that you have to continue to deal with them. It just means that you continue to see the person within and relate to their worth as a spiritual being.
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures.” – Albert Einstein
Being compassionate is an act that maintains your connection to your spiritual center. While it does benefit the person that you are feeling compassion for, it also benefits you. This is in keeping with the universal laws because everything is connected. That which you give to others comes back to you. That which you withhold from others is also withheld from you. Withholding compassion is like saying that you desire to hurt the other so much that you are willing to take it on for yourself as well. Who wants that?
The other reason to give compassion to all is because some day you will need it. We tend to be our own harshest critic. The more willing you are to give compassion for others, the easier it is to have it for yourself. When you see that a person is greater than their mistakes, ignorance, or immaturity, it’s easier to admit your own failings.
When you can face up to your true self, you can be yourself. You can be courageous to try things because you know that a failure is just a setback that you can easily recover from. Compassion doesn’t simply make you more kind and peaceful, it makes you more alive. It attracts more real people to your life because people can sense a phony. We are more willing to be authentic with those who are authentic. So having compassion males life more enjoyable, fulfilling, and connected.
How to Show Compassion
Okay, so you agree with me that it’s a good idea to have compassion. But how do you show it? How do you practice it? Here are some tips.
- Take credit for your accomplishments and positive traits. Humility is another highly praised value, so I am not talking about bragging. I am talking about owning what’s useful and good about you. Keep it healthy and balanced. Self-deprication is false humility. Don’t engage in that. Stand firm in who you are. That means you appreciate your talents as well as faults. This is being compassionate with yourself. Focus on the positive while also claiming the things you’re still working on.
- Give other people your full attention. Be present when you’re present. This shows that you appreciate them and are fully engaged.
- Listen. When someone tells you something personal, keep it to yourself. Maintain confidentiality. If you disagree, agree to disagree. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you keep your thoughts to yourself. Just don’t argue about it. Converse with respect, kindness, and tolerance for other points of view.
- Be empathetic. We all see the world from our own perspective. It can be hard to put yourself in someone else’s position if their values, goals and behavior are so different from our own. Be stepping out of your comfort zone, you can learn a lot about yourself and others.
- Act. If you say you are compassionate about the plight of refugees, animals, or sick children, do something about it. Become involved. Donate your money or time.
- Practice nonjudgment. Being nonjudgmental is a way to accept the world as it is. When we live with the flow of nature, we’re always evolving. This means that we’re not always as skillful or smart as we one day will be. The people around us aren’t either. Give others and yourself permission to be where they are. It’s not your job to condemn or correct. If it’s not your child, employee, student, or someone who isn’t in danger or creating danger for others, allow people to live as they are. Who is to say that your way is the right way? You’re in the cycle of life too.
- Be kind. Everyone can be be cranky at times. People can get on our nerves. Situations can test our patience. It’s easy to express that. This is when you need to practice kindness. It’s easy to be kind when you’re feeling good inside. It’s when you’re not that the world needs it most.
- Spend time with your other “brothers and sisters” – the plant people, winged people, two legs, four legs, earth, mountains, waters, ancestors, and non-physical creatures. We’re part of the whole universe. When you feel yourself as part of this family, you can never be lonely. You become far more connected to everything. Your sense of self extends beyond your body, your job, your family, and your deeds. This knowing can also make your life far more meaningful.