to recognize it as part of the shared human suffering
And then seek to alleviate that pain.
Compassion motivates and orientates you towards engaging with suffering and distress. It means that you are sensitive to suffering. You are moved to alleviate or prevent the suffering of others through wise, helpful actions.
But before we move on to the 9 easy ways to become more compassionate, it is essential to know what compassion is not.
Compassion is not a feeling, although various positive and negative emotions may color it. You may experience positive feelings like warmth and tenderness. Some emotions can also be unpleasant, like sorrow, anger, nervousness, or distress. Compassion does not always feel good.
Compassionate people are not weak. It may be hard to move toward suffering and to act with wisdom. It is not easy. “Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” – Dalai Lama
Compassion does not mean that you pity someone. It is not feeling sorry for a person. Neither is it being judgemental or condescending. As Nelson Mandela said: “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” Do not think that compassion is love, kindness, or empathy. It is much more.
To be compassionate, you must be firm but also humble. A compassionate person understands that suffering is part of being human. You have respect for the innate dignity of everyone. And therefore, you are willing to invest in a person or cause through your actions.
So, how can you become more compassionate?
9 Easy ways to become more compassionate
Brené Brown wrote: “Compassion is not a virtue—it is a commitment. It’s not something we have or don’t have—it’s something we choose to practice,” The ability to be compassionate is innate in all humans. You can learn it or enhance it. Victor Frankl, an Auschwitz survivor, said that nobody could take away your freedom to choose your attitude in any circumstance. And compassion is an attitude that you have towards others. So let us look at ways to become more compassionate.
Look for common denominators
We are all human and living on this earth. Humans all have basic needs like food, water, sleep, and shelter. We all want to be loved and belong. We want to be respected and to be treated with dignity. All of us have hopes and dreams. We suffer equally when we lose a child, have a fatal disease, or lose everything in a fire. And what happens to another person can just as well happen to you. Therefore, in the words of Pema Chödrön: “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
Relax your judgments
How easily we judge others. When we judge people, we create a hierarchy where we are superior. We have the urge to be correct and better than others. But judgment also makes you self-critical. Once again, you can choose your attitude towards people. Remember that to be different is also okay. Show others the grace to be unlike you.
A humble person is not arrogant and full of pride. The humble person is modest about her accomplishments. She is confident even though she may not be the “best” person in the room. “O Lord, it hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way,” sings Mac Davis. The humble person knows her flaws and recognizes her own faults. She is considerate and appreciative. And she is grateful for everything that she has.
Be aware of what is going on around you
People primarily focus on themselves. Our own desires, thoughts, and feelings consume us. Often we switch to autopilot and go through the day without noticing things around us. Once you start to look away from yourself, you will notice the world and the people around you. You will be open to seeing beauty but also the difficulties of life.
Investigate with kindness
It is so easy to turn away from suffering. How often do we hear of bystanders that do not help when a person is robbed? How many neighbors know of abused children but do not report it? They may feel worried or upset, but they turn a blind eye. These are extreme examples, but even in daily life, other people’s suffering may go unnoticed or unheeded. A compassionate person will approach a challenging situation and investigate with respect and kindness.
Make eye contact and stay fully present in the conversation.
Be sure that you genuinely understand the other person.
If you are compassionate, you will do this with kindness and consideration.
Earlier in the article, we saw that compassion is not a feeling. However, when you are faced with the suffering of others, it may evoke strong emotions like anger, disgust, or sadness. It is not necessarily bad because it may motivate you to help the person. But managing feelings positively is crucial.
Think before you speak
All effective communication rules apply here (See “Your ultimate guide to good communication”). Be aware of what you say and how you say it. Watch your body language. Always show respect and kindness. Never use your words to hurt someone, even if angry or disturbed.
Practicing compassion is one of the 9 easy ways to become more compassionate.
You may feel uncomfortable around someone who is suffering. How do you talk to someone who uses a wheelchair or has cancer? What do you say to the person who lost his job? You will never know if you do not practice compassion. Compassion is an act, and it is easier to start small. So, here are some ideas:
Let someone stand in front of you in a line
Give a parking spot to someone else
Allow someone to merge in front of you in heavy traffic
Become an organ donor
Share your knowledge
Babysit a child
Make dinner for a sick neighbor
Call your parents
Book a spa treatment for a friend
And in the words of Jack Kornfield: “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete,”
How can you use these 9 Easy ways to become more compassionate?
The following are short snippets to show you how easy it can be to show compassion. It is something that you can do in numerous ways every day.
My husband died unexpectedly. A co-worker took me under her wing. Every week for a whole year, she sent me a card to say that she thought of me. I think she saved my life.
Children were playing in the recreation area when a five-year-old girl motioned for a small boy to stop. She knelt before him and retied his flopping shoelaces. No words were spoken. After she finished, both smiled and turned to run off in different directions.
While two firefighters were waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant, the siren of their parked truck sounded. They turned to leave. A couple who had just received their order realized what was happening. They handed their food to the firefighters and then got back in line to reorder. Seeing what they did, the manager refused to take their money.
My friend and I were injured in a car accident, and a family stopped to help. They saw that we were hurt and drove us to the hospital. There they stayed until we were released. They took us home, bought us food, and made sure we were settled in.
We were going to our holiday destination when my favorite blanket flew out the window. It was gone, and I was shattered. When we stopped at a service station, I found a bench to sit on and eat my sandwich. Just then, a biker pulled into the station. Pointing to our car, he asked if it was ours. My mom nodded. He pulled my blanket from his jacket pocket and gave it to her. When he turned to his motorcycle, I ran up and gave him my sandwich.
You can make a difference in someone’s life daily with tiny acts of compassion. Just imagine that every single one of us daily shows just one person a single act of compassion. How much better the world would be! And we will be better, too, for in the words of Aberjhani, “Compassion crowns the soul with its truest victory.”
Today I want to dare you to use these 9 Easy ways to become more compassionate. Go out andshow compassion to one person every day for 21 days. And then, please let me know how it made you feel in the comments or at mailto:email@example.com.
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