Most people would like to think of themselves as a compassionate person. They would like to be known for having a desire and passion for helping others in need.
The most compassionate people I know, are also the most passionate. However, not all passionate people are compassionate.
What is it that compassionate people possess that purely passionate people are missing? What is it that prevents passionate people from becoming compassionate people?
In my own life, it appears that “self” is the only thing that stands in the way of being truly compassionate. It’s not a lack of money or other resources, but an over-abundance of “self.” When the “com”is missing from my passion, “self” is always the culprit.
Whenever I lack compassion towards those less fortunate, it’s because my “self” is putting itself in the center of my universe, demanding things it feels entitled to, and getting upset when it doesn’t get what it wants.
It’s really amazing how much we think about ourselves, and how often we believe (without admitting it) that we are entitled to be treated a certain way, that others should act the way we want them to act.
Compassion Begins With Your Thoughts
Watch the kinds of thoughts going on in your head:
- When someone else needs help, do you think first about how it will cost you in terms of time and money, rather than how it will affect the other person?
- When something unexpected happens in your personal life, do you think first about how it will affect you?
- When people speak to you, do you think about how what they’re saying relates to you, what they’re thinking of you, or how you will reply? Or, are you truly interested in how they are being affected.
- Do you think you’re entitled to have the world behave the way you want it to behave? When people irritate you, is your “self” angry because they aren’t acting the way you want them to act?
These are self-centered thoughts, and they always get in the way of compassion. These thoughts prevent any feelings of empathy towards others.
Without Action There is No Compassion
Without action, we only have pity or empathy. Empathy — putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes and trying to imagine what they’re going through is the beginning of compassion. We are probably wrong about what they’re going through, unless we’ve been there ourselves, but unless we at least try to imagine what the other person is feeling, we can’t be compassionate.
Once we’ve empathized, and feel their suffering, the second part of compassion is a desire to end that suffering, or at least take some action to ease that suffering in some small way.
So empathy is very important, but if we are thinking only about ourselves, we can’t empathize with others.
To be compassionate, we must get ourselves out of the way, and think of the other person. When we think about how we should be treated, what we want, how something will affect us, we cannot also be thinking of the other person and how something will affect them, how they should be treated, or what they need.
Compassion is a Think-Act-Feel Process
The first step towards compassion is our thoughts. Less about self, and more about others. Try to feel their suffering, and then to want to end it.
The next step is take some action to end that suffering. Even the smallest gesture will make you feel like a compassionate person and someone who is making a difference.
Don’t wait until you feel like a compassionate person. Change your thoughts. Take action. The feeling of compassion will always follow.
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