My values # 4 Compassion

Kindness – Care – Compassion

“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again”  William Penn

I spoke earlier about the value of feeling empathy for others. Kindness, care and compassion converts this feeling into action. Kindness is being friendly generous and considerate. Caring is looking after people. Compassion is having a genuine feeling of sorrow for a person who has suffered a misfortune coupled with a genuine desire to alleviate the suffering.

I grew up with kindness, care and compassion. I grew up knowing this was what you gave other people. My grandmother always showed compassion and care for sick people, immobile people, people doing it tough. My mother was the rock solid support for family and others, and compassionate towards charity recipients at her church by assisting them, or finding additional services for their needs. My father was a kind considerate person to everyone he knew. I learned this way of life and have always endeavoured to act with kindness, care and compassion towards all people.

With my husband leaving me, suddenly my world was turned upside down. When I was in my own world of comfort and security, it was easy to step up and help others in need. In my new world of pain and despair, I fell into self-indulgent pity. I was in a catch 22 situation. I felt that I could not become my previous self and care for others until I was strong again,  yet I was too ingrained in my thinking of putting others first to put myself first long enough to allow myself time to heal.

I have since grown to understand that these actions of kindness, care and compassion are things we all need, even me.

I discovered kindness as a gift to me by the random act of a stranger in the supermarket. I now have a greater understanding as to how much small acts of kindness can mean. More than ever, I endeavour to pass kindness on to everyone I meet.

Compassion is somewhat harder. For a long time, I felt that I was not strong enough in myself to show compassion and help others in need.

Then I found self-compassion. Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same care and kindness as you would treat someone else in need. I started becoming empathetic towards myself and reached an understanding of my own situation. I acknowledged that I was indeed suffering. I stopped being hard on myself. I started to be kind to myself. I started to care for myself, look after myself. Rather than being self-critical and thinking I should be doing better, rather than wishing ‘it’ hadn’t happened, denying it; I started to accept the pain and suffering that I was going though. I started treating myself with the same kindness that I would show someone else in my situation. I started feeling compassion for myself.

As I did this, a strange thing happened. I started to compare myself to others and I began to relate more to others. I looked around me and saw that my suffering was not unusual. I am not alone. I am no better or worse off than any other. I began to realise that what I was going through is all part of our human experience. We all go through troughs in our lives. It is not something that only I have to endure.

Reaching this state of ‘self-compassion’ has really helped me and, while I know that I cannot feel compassion for myself without truly feeling my own pain or truly observing my own negative thoughts and feelings, I strive to not be sucked down by too much gloominess by balancing this with a continual forward positive vision.

A few days ago, my daughter suggested that I get myself involved in a humanitarian project, a side of me that had become lost. I said to her that I was not strong enough. She told me that it was that that makes me strong. I thought of all that mother Theresa achieved in the world through compassion and decided that I was not that strong. Then I thought of my staff. Amongst them I know of five who are currently struggling, anxious or in less-than desirable situations. Five people I could show compassion towards, five people who I could help. I am not strong enough to heal the world. However, I could begin here, and I could begin today.

Perhaps my compassion for others is not lost, I just need to look for it a little closer to home.

“Helping others is what helps you get stronger. Do it before you feel strong. It makes you step outside yourself and move forward because you are helping others.”  Quote by my daughter.