Are You Losing Your Compassion?
I recently signed up for a course that focus on compassion. At first, you may think “Why would someone need to learn compassion?” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less compassionate and empathetic to the needs of others. This change in me has been subtle. Over the years, the person who cared too much has become the person who cares a little. I noticed a bubbling of apathy when someone shared a story that in the past would have compelled me to take action. I slowly was becoming a rigid and polarized thinker.
This awareness was brought to light as I looked at my life through my sons’ eyes. As the parent of a teen and a toddler, I have a varying perspective of my role. To my toddler, I am the person to emulate; to my teen I am the person to scrutinize. So as I live my life as a daily segment of ABC’s ‘What Would You Do?’, I am challenged to confront my growing apathy towards human suffering.
When I first started on this journey, I was critical and defensive of this awareness. I pacified my thoughts by telling myself, “You care.” You’re a nice person.” “You have manners.” However, none of this reflects true compassion and empathy. Yes, the little things I do every day matter, however to whom I show compassion is more telling of my character. Was I more compassionate towards a person or situation when I could relate to it?
Being on social media made it easy for me to appear compassionate. It’s easy to tweet or post something that makes others feel good but to extend service to another in need is the power of compassion. Human suffering is universal but our compassion towards those suffering can be limited.
The recent killing of unarmed teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has brought the bubbling racial tension in our country to a boiling point. In recent cases of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, I’ve witnessed how others are quick to judge, villify and condemn these three unarmed young men as thugs. I bet some of these people who posted hateful and racist messages would consider themselves “good, caring people.” Yet, they can not relate to the pain of particular group of people because of their perception of that group.
How about when we see violence in Gaza, Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Ukraine? Do we recognize and acknowledge the pain of parents who lost their children or children who lost their parents? Are we indifferent to their suffering because they are not like us?
What about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Do the videos you inspire to donate to the ALS Association? Or are you complaining about having to see these videos on your stream? Anthony Carbajal shared a moving and honest video about what it’s like for him to live with ALS and his family history which includes his mom and grandmother.
What does compassion mean to you and how does it show up in your daily life? How do you respond when you hear or see the suffering of those who are different from you?
Compassion is easy to talk about but challenge to live by. It requires that we practice forgiveness of ourselves and others. Compassion moves us out of our comfort zone and forces us to put aside our prejudices, our anger in order to be of service to others. Through compassion, we learn to love unconditionally and we learn to take baby steps towards the concept of humanity.
I’m seeing a positive change in myself and I hope it is reflected in my sons’ actions and behavior. For me, compassion means that I will practice listening more than speaking, that I will practice being patient and understanding, especially with difficult people. My intention is not to become a compassionate person but rather a person who practices compassion. The best gift I can give my sons to not let them think I am so strong that I can not fall or fail.The best gift I can give them is to teach them to have compassion for self and others.