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Are we compassionate enough?

Updated on May 4, 2012

How do we define compassion?

Compassion can be defined in different ways, but I suppose it is a basic kindess with a deep awareness of the suffering of other living things. I think it is one of the most important qualities for a human to posses. We all know what it is to be treated with kindness from others when we're distressed or facing tragedy, and this also plays an important role in our mental and physical wellbeing

Today in 2012 we are constantly being confronted with crises linked to a lack of compassion for each other, as well as our environment. Our brain is very sensitive to the social context in which we live, so as well as compassion we can become ruthless and cruel. I feel it is important therefore to deliberately focus on compassion and nurture it.

Life can be tough at times. It is no wonder that we have all at some point pondered on how to understand it and the challenges as well as the triumphs it brings. Even when we feel good in ourselves we're increasingly aware of the suffering in the world and often feel inner calls to create a more fair environment for all. Despite all our modern advances, we still crave to find a deeper meaning.

Compassion can be healthy

Being compassionate towards ourselves and others can help with the many challenges of life as it means we are focussing on inner development of social connectedness. It has been proved by psychologists that those who receive kindness, gentleness warmth and compassion are compared with those who don't, more confident, secure, happier and less proned to mental or physical health problems. They are also more caring and respectful of others and it is this sense of security which helps to lesson negative emotions. Rather than trying to impress people, it is better for us to 'learn how to listen and take a genuine and sincere interest in other people and focus on them' (Dale Carnegie 1939) Unfortunately, we live in societies that neither teach nor inspire this and often end up falling victims to pressures and values that are created for us. We use our own experience of feelings and self identity to judge others. We also make assumptions when it comes to issues of freedom and rights.

Understanding we are all different

Understanding that we are individuals can create challenges as we have to learn how to be empathic and to recognize that values and ways of thinking vary between us. It means that we have to look at emotions such as envy and also accept our own limitations. We all at times compare ourselves to others, and even try to model ourselves on people we perhaps admire. But this can easily lead to self criticism if we're not able to accept ourselves as we are and affect our relationships with others.

Is compassion a weakness?

According to Greek tradition, the only people deserving of compassion are those who do not deserve their suffering. The Romans thought that compassion was a weakness and when David Cameron, leader of the Conservative party in Britain, recently suggested that some unruly youth probably require more love and support than others, he was accused of being a "hug a hoodie" politician. People differ in their understanding of compassion and view it as a weakness and therefore resist developing this quality. Compassion isn't about becoming less able but about becoming more able and focussed.

Compassion with ourselves and others can offer a wealth of happiness and positive results in our various states of wellbeing and can enable us to create happiness for others and the society in which we live. If we just continue to pursue better and more modern technology etc then we may have a wonderful efficient society, that is just horrible and miserable to live in.

© 2012 cherriquinn


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