Monday, August 15, 2005

What is Compassion?

In reading my past blogs, (which I did today for some comfort and it worked), I've noticed that I write alot about compassion, yet, I've never actually described what Compassion truly is. I'm going to try to explain it today, mainly for my own education.

Compassion and love are the motivation to exert courage, have hope, persist in the face of adversity and develop inner strength. In the Buddhist and Christian traditions, compassion and love are seen as two aspects of same thing: compassion is the wish for another being to be freed from their state of suffering; love is wanting them to have happiness and fulfillment in their emotional and spiritual growth, as well as the sweetness of temporal success. Notice that neither has anything to do with "wish" fulfillment. Rather, they deal with the reality of the particular present of each being. Compassion is not the end all, beat all; it is, rather, the path and the means to ultimate personal fullfillment.

Compassion is not sentiment but is making justice and doing works of mercy. Compassion is not a moral commandment but a flow and overflow of the fullest human and divine energies. --Matthew Fox

When we fully develop compassion there is no room in our heart for hatred, pettiness, jealousy and pride. The caring and concern for your fellow man outweighs these weaknesses that we all have in our hearts. Whether or not we like to admit it, we have all experienced these habits at one time or another. There is a saying that "Love conquers all" and it is so true. The Bible says that "Love covers a multitude of sins". We have no choice but to give up those sins, especially the one of pride, when we are motivated solely by compassion.

Compassion is the ultimate and most meaningful embodiment of emotional maturity. It is through compassion that a person achieves the highest peak and deepest reach in his or her search for self-fulfillment. --Arthur Jersild

Compassion, as is love, is limitless in it's capacity. It's not concerned with timing, with the place, with the culture or the faults and limitations of the other person. This is also the definition of "Grace". Grace is unmerited favor. It is showing concern even if the object of our compassion has not met our expectations. Compassion is a life-long pursuit, an education that lasts until the day we depart this world. It's not an overnight conversion. It takes daily practice.

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and loving-kindness. --Psalm 145.8

Compassion is very personal. I think that the better you know someone, the more significant are the effects of the compassion you show. It is also more difficult, for some reason, than showing compassion toward a general mass of people. This may be due to the fact that we have certain expectations of the individuals we know and when they fail to meet them we are disappointed. How many times have we said, "Well, I can't feel too sorry for her. She basically brought this on herself by doing something so stupid." or, "Well, look at the way he lives? Of course that happened to him." or "There must be something she did in the past to cause this current situation to happen." See, we know their circumstances. That is also the reaction that migraneurs tend to receive from our health care professionals. That is why we are accused of being drug-seekers, attention grabbers, or the old standby, "It's all in your head." (Der.)

But, how do we develop Compassion? First, we have to curb our tempers. Oh, such a tough thing to do when you're not feeling well! I've spoken before about the righteous anger and that's not what I'm talking about now. Right now, I'm talking about annoyance and pettiness. I'm talking mainly about curbing the tongue so that we don't negatively affect the individuals around us, by being angry with them. It's especially difficult when you're on medication that has this as a side effect. When you have irritability as a side effect of your medication on top of the irritability you have from the pain, it's nearly impossible to do. It takes strenuous effort.

Next, we have to take action to show compassion toward our loved ones. But, what if you're the one that needs the compassion. In actuality, we have the more difficult job to show compassion. One way that we can do this is to realize how hard it is for them to see us, day after day, in constant, unending pain, without the possibility that that pain will ever be eased, knowing that there is nothing that they can do to take it away. As it does we, it tests their patience, their faith, their hope, and they develop the same frustrations that we do. When they show compassion for us, reaching deep inside themselves to find the energy and make the effort, however ineffective that may be, we have to show them that just the effort means the world to us, acknowledging that we could not endure the chronic illness without their love and steadfastness.

One of the most significant ways that we can show true compassion is through praying for the suffering of others, because what we can't do, God can. I forget that sometimes and when I do it, it doesn't always feel effective. But, I have to remember that that is because it isn't effective because I prayed. Rather, it is effective because God heard it and He does the work.

Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things. --Thomas Merton

Compassion is the sister of Love, and Grace is it's cousin. As such it is not passive, just a feeling that you can send in a greeting card. It is an activity that we try to cultivate on a daily basis. We must forgive ourselves and others when we falter in this practice, realizing that that is why it is called a "practice". However, making the effort to cultivate it, as we would make an effort to cultivate a garden, will result in the blossoms of kind-heartedness, spiritual maturity, self-sacrifice, (not martyrdom), and gracious mercy.

The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, forgiveness. --H.H. the Dalai Lama


At 12:36 AM, Blogger Moogle said...


I so love this post! Thank you for your insight on compassion. In fact, I think I'll do my own thing on compassion and include a link to your post.


At 3:44 PM, Anonymous Gabrielle said...

Hello! I just stumbled across your blog while I was searching the Internet for essays on compassion. This is terrific. I just wanted to let you know that you have touched my heart with this blog. It is so real and relevant. I really liked how you included quotes and verses, nice touch! I look forward to reading more of your blogs. May God bless you.

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