why do we need to show compassion

Compassion is in my opinion, one of the single most important qualities we can possess as human beings. It is defined as sympathetic consciousness of others distress together with a desire to alleviate it {The Merriam-Webster Dictionary}. It has also been defined as "sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. " Other similar qualities are: empathy, fellow feeling, mercy,
leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, sensitivity, charity, care, concern, and solicitude. Those who demonstrate the most compassion, are those who have the ability to imagine themselves in another persons circumstances or predicament. They are the people who have perhaps never personally experienced something that another human being or animal is experiencing, yet are able to put themselves in that person or animals place and imagine what it must feel like. Animals are themselves very compassionate creatures, and human beings can learn so much from them. Take for example the Capuchin monkey. They will help a fellow Capuchin even when they don t have to. They also demonstrate a strong sense of fairness and are outraged when they feel there is an injustice taking place. These and other cases of animals showing compassion were studied by renowned Primatologist Frans de Waal. Compassion is not something that is only appropriate if shown to others, it is necessary that we show compassion towards ourselves too. I am sure we have all heard the saying They are as hard on themselves as they are on others. While this may be expressed as if it is a good thing, I personally don t think it is in all cases. If we are able to be compassionate towards ourselves, then it is easier to extend it to others. If we can only relate to others based on our own personal feelings, thoughts, opinions, and circumstances, how compassionate are we really being? We must remember, compassion is the ability to walk a mile in another persons shoes, not our own. Let s start at home first. Sometimes, we go out of our way to be understanding, kind and compassionate to strangers and acquaintances.


Yet are we as quick to do this with the people who are closest to us? I absolutely love one of the sayings that Dr. Maya Angelou known for. She said: If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning Good morning at total strangers. Working on this one! One way that we can show more compassion for others is simply being willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Just as we wouldn t like someone attributing evil motives to us, we wouldn t want to do be overly suspicious of others. While it s true that there are rare times when someone really does have bad intentions, in the majority of cases this isn t so. Even in court, we are Innocent until proven guilty! Being less judgmental is another way we can be more compassionate. At the end of the day, we have no idea what someone else may be dealing with. They may have just lost a loved one, been laid off of their job, been diagnosed with a life-changing illness, etc. Since we really have no idea what people are trying to cope with, we should try and be mindful of these possibilities. We could try and think of what we might need from others if we were dealing with those same kinds of situations. At the same time, realizing that everyone is affected differently by these things, and everyone reacts differently. So, those are just a few reasons why I feel that compassion is so important. And just a few ways that we can live life more compassionately. Most of us value compassion and agree that it is important both in our own lives as well as in society more generally. Undeniably, compassion is also part of our everyday experience of being human. We love and care for our children; confronted with someone in pain, we instinctively feel for that person; when someone reaches out to us in a time of distress we feel touched. Most of us would also agree that compassion has something to do with what it means to lead a good life.


So itвs no small coincidence that compassion turns out to be the common ground where the ethical teachings of all major traditions, religious and humanistic, come together. В Even in the contested political arena, compassion is one value that both sides of the spectrum are eager to claim. Despite our widely shared experience and beliefs about compassion, we fail to give it a central role in our lives and in our society. In our contemporary culture, we tend to have a rather confused relationship with values like kindness and compassion. In the secular West, we lack a coherent cultural framework for articulating what compassion is and how it works. To some people, itвs a matter of religion and morality, a private concern of the individual with little or no societal relevance. Others question the very possibility of selflessness for human beings, and are suspicious of sentiments like compassion that have other peopleвs welfare as the primary concern. As a well-known scientist once remarked, Scratch an altruist and watch a hypocrite bleed. At the other extreme, some people elevate these qualities to such heights that they are out of reach for most of us, possible only for exceptional individuals like Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama. Compassion then becomes something to be admired at a distance in great beings, but not relevant to our everyday lives. Broadly defined, compassion is a sense of concern that arises when we are confronted with anotherвs suffering and feel motivated to see that suffering relieved. The English word compassion, from its Latin root, literally means В вto suffer withв. According to religious historian Karen Armstrong, the word for compassion in Semitic languages в rahamanut in Hebrew and rahman in Arabic в is etymologically related to the word for womb, evoking the motherвs love for her child as an archetypal expression of our compassion. В At its core, compassion is a response to the inevitable reality of our human conditionвour experience of pain and sorrow.


Compassion offers the possibility of responding to suffering with understanding, patience, and kindness rather than, say, fear and repulsion. As such, compassion lets us open ourselves to the reality of suffering and seek its alleviation. Compassion is what connects the feeling of empathy to acts of kindness, generosity, and other expressions of our altruistic tendencies. When compassion arises in us in the face of need or suffering, three things happen almost instantaneously: We perceive the otherвs suffering or need; we emotionally connect with that need or suffering; and we respond instinctively by wishing to see that situation relieved. Compassion may lead to action; it is a readiness to help or to want to do something ourselves about another personвs situation. Today, scientists are beginning to map the neurobiological basis of compassion and explore its deep evolutionary roots. As a society, we have long ignored the fundamental role our compassion instinct plays in defining our nature and behaviour. We have bought into a popular narrative that seeks to explain all our behavior through the prism of competition and self-interest. This is the story we have been telling about ourselves. The thing about a story like this is that it tends to be self-fulfilling. When our story says that we are at heart selfish and aggressive creatures, we assume that every man is for himself. In this вdog eat dog worldв it is only logical, then, to see others as a source of rivalry and antagonism. And so we relate to others with apprehension, fear, and suspicion, instead of with fellow feeling and a sense of connection. By contrast, if our story says that we are social creatures endowed with instincts for compassion and kindness, and that as deeply interdependent beings our welfare is intertwined, this totally changes the way we view в and behave in в the world. So the stories we tell about ourselves do matter, quite profoundly so. This extract is taken from A Fearless Heart by Thupten Jinpa.

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