Showing compassion to others isn’t just about trying to be a good person, it’s essential for your own happiness. As the Dalai Lama says, “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.” Some days it’s harder than others but if you commit to being compassionate you will have a more positive outlook before you know it.
So how is this sentiment different from empathy (also a good thing to strive for)? Empathy involves being able to see things from another person’s perspective and understanding how they may feel. Being compassionate is similar but it also involves feeling another person’s pain and wanting to help. Those heart-wrenching SPCA ads are meant to spark empathy for the animals that inspires you to make a donation. Stepping in when you see someone being bullied is another good example.
Focus on being more compassionate
Social media has revolutionized the way we connect with each other but it’s also made some of us less compassionate by making it easier to take out your insecurities or anger at the world with nasty online comments — forgetting there’s a real person on the other end. All the more reason to focus on being more compassionate! Practice mindfulness and try to slow down and be in the moment when you’re interacting with people. Really listen and appreciate when people are really listening to you. Being compassionate is contagious so when you feel it from others you’re more likely to pass it on and that cycle makes the world a better place.
Patience is also important
It’s usually easy to feel connected when you’re face-to-face but all that love for humanity can go right out the window during a long commute or watching a tragedy play out on TV. So when someone cuts you off in traffic and you feel your blood pressure rising, take a breath and consider that it may have been unintentional or maybe they’re rushing home to a sick child. Then make a point of letting someone else merge in front of you and feel your anger melt away. The drowning of 3-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi struck a chord because he made us see an innocent victim of the ongoing crisis rather than a swarm of faceless people.
When all else fails, consider practicing 30 minutes a day of Compassion Meditation for two weeks. This guided meditation was created by Helen Weng at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) and research has shown that it really works. You can download the audio or read a transcript at Greater Good in Action.