We enter into this world helpless; hungry, and greedy for attention. Compassion wrapped in the purity of a parent’s love becomes the sustenance with which that hunger is satiated. I believe we are all born with the capacity for compassion, but it’s something that must be nurtured within us if it is to grow.
Maybe this is why it’s called practicing compassion. We aren’t born with the tools we need to become compassionate people, someone has to give them to us and then we need to be taught how to use them. Parents cradle more than new life in their arms when a child enters this world, they are swaddling the future in a blanket of their compassion, and every choice they make has the power to alter that future, for better or for worse.
As parents, we have to speak to the hearts of our children with more than our voices. We have to engage in a dialogue of the heart because if we don’t, the voices of the world will fill in the void of silence we leave. It’s not enough to tell them what compassion is, a dictionary can do that, we need to show them.
Our children see everything we do, hear everything we say. They feel what we feel. They see when we go out of our way to help someone in need, they see when we ignore someone in need as well. They hear the kindness in our words, they also hear the disdain and judgments. They mirror who we are. They become who they will be, in part, because of who they saw us to be.
We need to be compassion, we need to define it so our children know what it is and how to live it.
Compassion is something we can practice every single day, it may begin with self compassion, something many of us have a hard time with. We beat ourselves up, we overwork, under sleep, undervalue our personal worth, but if we don’t practice self compassion we render ourselves incapable of becoming a person of outward compassion, what we are really doing by not taking time to nurture who we are, is robbing the world of our light.
We need to let our light shine so there are no longer dark places in our world where hope cannot be seen. We need to shine. We need to be bright and brilliant beacons of hope, of what could be. If your light brightens the path for even one person to find their way out of the shadows, you have changed the world.
Compassion is not conditional, it comes from your heart. Compassion is what you do for others without expectation of thanks or reward. Compassion is putting the shoe on the other foot, it is sharing the burden of a heavy load. Compassion is a smile, a prayer, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold. Compassion doesn’t judge, it doesn’t need reason, it doesn’t require monumental effort, it just requires a heart willing to take action.
We all have those moments, even the most compassionate and kind among us fall off the proverbial wagon and sink in the muck sometimes. I did not too long ago.
I took my son to get a haircut, it didn’t turn out the way we’d expected it to. In all honesty, it was an awful haircut and I wasn’t happy about it. Instead of being gracious though, I was gruff. I didn’t hide my aggravation and I made a point of letting the stylist know how I felt.
I knew before I was finished having my say I should have kept my mouth shut. I could see her feelings were hurt, but I had been clear in my instructions and felt justified. I could tell by the look in my sons eyes he did not agree. When we left he said, “You were a little hard on her.”
Of course I ranted for a minute about my justification. When we arrived home I’d had time to realize what an asshole I had been. I didn’t just hurt that young girls feelings, I’d set a terrible example for my son. I backed out of the driveway without saying a word and drove right back to the salon. When she saw me, she averted her eyes and hung her head. I never want to be looked at like that again.
I apologized. I smiled and said, “Next time, let’s leave a little more hair on his head.” and her entire demeanor changed. I felt good, she felt good, and my son was witness to something all children should see their parents do. Humbly admit a wrong and take steps to set things right.
Compassion is essential and though it may hurt sometimes, it is what makes us human. It’s what keeps our world from crumbling and our hearts from breaking. Compassion is something we have to practice.
I am talking about real life, every day compassion. The kind you have to have when the waitress is having a bad day. Compassion is realizing the checkout girl with a scowl on her face and what we only see as a bad attitude, may be masking some incredible pain. Compassion is the decision to smile and practice patience and kindness.
It’s about not judging the grumpy mom with the misbehaving kids at the grocery store. It’s about not being annoyed when the elderly woman at the checkout line pulls out a hundred coupons and a checkbook. It’s about smiling at an angry driver or taking the time to give the homeless something to eat or drink and feel happy about for a moment.
And it’s a little bit about having patience with your hair stylist . . .
Crystal R. Cook