What is Compassion and Why You Need to Know
I read the newspaper. Yes, the black and white printed paper that gets delivered to my door. In every single issue, without fail, there are articles about crime, violence, hate speech, blame, conspiracies, and division. And almost every morning I find myself wondering if it will ever be possible for us to relate to each other with compassion instead of blame and vengeance. Then I wonder “what is compassion, exactly?” So I did some reading.
By definition, compassion is the sympathetic awareness of others’ distress, coupled with a desire to alleviate suffering. It’s empathy plus prosocial action to improve the condition of others. To be compassionate requires attention, insight, and engagement, says Joan Halifax, Ph.D., a Zen Buddhist nun and researcher. Interestingly, while the practice of compassion is inherently about helping others, emerging science shows that it can also help improve the physical health and psychological well-being of the person doing good.
In my line of work I hear about bullying, depression, anxiety, stress and health challenges starting in grade school. Parents blame other parents and teachers. Students blame their peers. Families are riddled with strife and power struggles. It’s quite overwhelming and sickening to me if I let it be. That’s when my roaming thoughts come back to compassion. Let me be clear here… compassion does not excuse bad behavior. But it does bring a new dynamic to the equation. A dynamic of trying to understand and doing something to help the person who is hurting and acting out. Instead of yelling at our kids let’s work to connect with their emotions and discover how we can help them and encourage them. Instead of blaming your spouse, focus on what is troubling them and join forces to problem solve. Compassion.
I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy. I am always here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions! Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.
Written by Lisa Smith
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