Compassion says, “I may not fully understand what you are going through, but I am truly sorry that you are going through it. Let me ease your burden, even if it is in some small way.” It does not matter how big or how small the suffering of another is, to me, this is what compassion means.
When I saw a Facebook post promoting #1000Speak, I knew that I wanted to take part in it. I had a thousand and one thoughts in my head, but the minute I put fingers to keyboard, my mind went blank. So, I decided to ask my 14 year old daughter about it while we went for a drive to the store. I told her about the blog I wanted to write and the following conversation was the result: (her responses are in italics)
What does compassion mean to you?
To me, compassion means caring enough to do for someone else what they can’t do for themselves.
Do you think it’s easier to show compassion to some and harder to show it to others?
Yes, actually, I do.
What do you mean?
Well, like if a person shuts everyone out and is so closed off that they don’t let anyone get close enough to see inside.
What about a person’s attitude? Can that have an impact on whether it’s easy or hard to show them compassion?
Oh sure it can. I mean, say there are two homeless people outside the store when we get there. One of them smiles at people when they pass by and says hello. They say thank you to people that offer to help them, and even though they’re homeless, they seem to still have a pretty positive outlook. The other person is angry over their situation. They hate themselves or they blame others for what’s happened to make them end up living on the streets. They curse at people who walk by and are mean. They’re probably scared and have a very negative outlook.
Understandably so, I would suppose?
Well sure, I mean, I can’t imagine how I would feel if we ended up homeless.
So, you’re saying that it would be easier to show the homeless person with a positive outlook compassion than it is to show compassion to the homeless person with a negative outlook?
Well, yeah. Okay look, it really doesn’t matter what situation they are in. They could be homeless or they failed a class or lost a job or are sick or they’re just having a bad day. It’s easy to show compassion to a nice person that’s going through a tough time than it is to show compassion to someone that is mean or negative all the time.
Okay, so are you saying it’s better to show compassion when it’s hard?
No, I’m not saying it’s better or counts more, just that it can have a bigger impact because it requires more of you to show someone like that compassion. Sometimes, it takes a bigger sacrifice. I mean, if it were easy to show every single person compassion, then every single person would do it and there would be a lot less bad stuff happening, don’t you think?
Sometimes, that kid surprises me in some pretty amazing ways. May we all learn to show a little compassion and kindness. No matter how easy or hard it might be.