Compassion is a higher order experience – it is where heaven meets earth and where your private self meets the public. It doesn’t come easy for everyone and for some it is hard won only after going through dark times. We need it now more than ever– for ourselves and for others. What makes it so important and how do we harness it?
I have been seeing more and more people have a harder time as the pandemic continues to interfere with our routine of life and the tension of politics keep us stressed. This stress is real; the tensions high. When I sat in meditation and asked what was needed – this was my answer. Compassion.
Let me explore what this means to us at this time. See if you find something useful in these descriptions.
COMPASSION FOR OURSELVES
It is not fully possible to feel compassion for others if you do not have it for yourself. Often the higher we set our bar, the harder we judge ourselves, the more intolerant we are of others who do not measure up. This can be surprisingly subtle. You have to step back to see it.
Having compassion for yourself starts with recognizing the hard shell of expectation and judgement you have over yourself. It may even be a source of pride and superiority. When you see it, feel it and understand it, you may recognize that it is a defense against hurt, pain and judgement you’ve experienced. If you look at it from a high place – you may see that is serves a purpose – it may be your protector. But if it is blocking you from being kind to yourself right now, when you need it most, it is not helpful at all.
FACING YOUR INTERNAL DARKNESS
I was surprised to come to this understanding myself. I was in my twenties when I faced the brittleness of my “everything’s fine and I can handle anything” façade that I wore like a shield. I had to face the darkness I carried before compassion could soften and melt my stance. It was only then that I could begin to understand self-compassion.
Facing difficulties, understanding them, giving voice and recognition to difficult emotions is the starting point to tearing down defenses that create intolerance judgement and perfectionism toward yourself and others. Once you understand and appreciate your own ability to face difficulty, the pent-up pain can begin to soften.With this understanding, newfound compassion melts you from the inside out. It’s the starting point for letting softness flood through you and out to others.
COMPASSION FOR OTHERS
Compassion is a deep and intuitive understanding of your or someone else’s suffering that draws you in closer and motivates you to take action. To feel another’s situation gives you a deeper and more personal understanding of their experience and a desire to respond to it.
With compassion, there is a suspension of judgement. It allows you to step into another’s shoes without prejudice so you understand their plight. It can create epiphanies of clarity and awakening to fully recognize and comprehend another’s experience. If you are like me, when the reality of others’ suffering is suddenly illuminated, it can be a visceral experience to sense someone’s pain.
TAKING A STEP TOWARD UNITY
Compassion leads us toward a desire to rectify wrongs, to support justice and to create change. As we collectively begin to understand the magnitude of someone else’s experience, there is a ground swell and tipping point to the desire to do something about it.
We watched this happen in the Me Too movement, the climate change movement and now, more than ever in the Black Lives Matter protests and civil unrest around prejudice and brutality. It has propelled people to take to the streets, demand confederate statues be removed and take a stance of intolerance until change occurs. This is the healthy consequence of being united by compassionate understanding. We can unite around the need for change because of our compassion.
What is your experience right now? Do you feel compassion for yourself as you navigate these strange times? Have you noticed the wisdom that compassion brings to help you tolerate your own dark times? There is stark contrast between the prejudice, contempt and divisiveness that is being directed toward people from other countries, people in need, and those who’s compassion is propelling them to mobilize for change. Judgement and intolerance is driving hatred and divisiveness. Compassion is driving change. Where are you?
If you would like to develop more self-compassion or understand how this issue affects you, reach out. My Transformational Coaching and Counseling is designed to support this kind of self-exploration and discovery. Go to www.spectrumtransformation.com and use my Free Consultation link to reach me. I’d love to hear from you.
Photo by Lee Carroll