Compassion Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Our Deeper Selves

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Compassion Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Our  Deeper Selves 

Not too long ago, a story made the rounds on the internet, from news sites to emails to Facebook posts, about a famous musician who decided to play in a busy public area of a major city and see what happened. Sadly, the musician, a world-class talent who typically filled auditoriums and sold out shows, only attracted fleeting glances from the bustling pedestrians who walked by him that day. His experience reflects a good deal about our collective conscience when it concerns people outside our tightly scheduled lives. A musician playing on a street corner or busy walkway isn’t a threatening proposition. Maybe everyone passing by that day truly had too much on their agendas to stop, listen, and offer a dollar. But the story is telling on this level: we’ve become immune to the outside world, even when it offers us beautiful music.

Compassion Suffers from Our Jaded View of the World 

Daily, we are wrapped in discouraging news from across the globe that bombards us from every angle. Some of us manage to close off the rat-a-tat-tat of negativity. Who among us knows someone, maybe yourself, who doesn’t read a newspaper or watch a news show of any kind? We blame the media and say they focus too much on the negative and never report the positive. This may be true, but we inoculate ourselves from caring by placing a bubble around our lives. We become closed off to the suffering of others; we rationalize we can’t do anything to change the circumstance; we turn off the music, both good and bad.

This is an insular way of living. True, life is difficult. Our trials will be many, and we argue that our personal stock of coping energy is depleted by dealing with the immediate, personal matters that affect us directly. When news of disasters or political upheavals seep through our barriers, we are good at pushing them back to the other side. “Let someone else help,” we think, “because my life is all I can handle.” Perhaps we need to think again.

Compassion: Part of What Makes Us Human 

Over the course of human history, which can be viewed as miniscule or expansive, compassion has been a driving force of change. Human suffering has a way of motivating individuals and the masses. One person’s compassionate acts can affect hundreds—abolitionist Sojourner Truth escaped slavery and worked the remainder of her life to ease the lives of black Americans. Acts of compassion also arise from nations—all but one European country has abolished the death penalty. Compassion is an agent of change.

The truth of the matter is that turning off our compassion entirely is impossible and deadening to our core consciousness. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), the physician and Nobel Peace Prize winner, said: “Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

Reconnecting with Our Compassion: A Few Steps 

There’s no formula for finding our compassion once we recognize it has never left us in the first place. If your ability to care for others seems dormant, start small. You may have no desire to advocate for the homeless or volunteer at a non-profit organization. That’s okay. But there are issues and people that you care about, and they are all around you when you are ready to see them. Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. What do I care about in life?
  2. Who are affected by the things I care about most?
  3. Are there needs to be filled, small or large, that could benefit from my time, talent or money?
  4. If so, how do I undertake a compassionate act that best suits my resources, abilities and comfort level?

Make a commitment to write down the answers and review them. Keep revisiting them until they feel right. When they do, take the next step and act. In the end, the lives of a few or many could benefit, and your life will also reap the rewards of connecting with your humanity.


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