I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks thinking about compassion, dissecting it and attempting to define it in some way. I prayed about it, I researched it, I perused texts written by ancient philosophers pertaining to it, I read passages biblical scholars have written and found blessings in the verses long ago penned to pieces of parchment.
I took notes, jotted down my own thoughts and feelings and complied them to create my own compassion dissertation of sorts. It was good, I daresay it was really, really good.
I deleted it. It wasn’t a purposeful deletion. I’m not ashamed to say I felt a little devastated. Those words were pieces of my heart and I lost them.
I was done.
Ready to throw in the proverbial towel and simply be done. I was angry at myself and ever so slightly defeated.
But then . . .
I was lifted up, encouraged, and compelled by the kindness of others to shake it off and start again. I became the grateful recipient of compassion freely and without hesitation offered by strangers who in a strange way have become a family. They come from all walks of life, from countries around the world I will likely never see. Some speak languages I will never speak, and some are so very different from me – and yet – we are the same in more ways than I ever could have imagined.
They exist in a village called 1000 Voices, they exist in my heart. Though miles and miles and thousands more miles may separate us, they are as close as a click of a keyboard away.
That is a beautiful thing.
So with the new-found strength they helped me muster I began again to write of compassion. It’s not the same as it was, not nearly, but they are my words and they come from a place of love and compassion and thankfulness.
1000 Voices Speak For Compassion has touched my soul and I am more than exceedingly thankful for it.
The philosophy of compassion is not new. Since the beginning of time compassion has been a thread woven into the fabric of humanity. Biblical scholars wrote of it, ancient philosophers spoke of it, and today, we too, come together to remind every willing ear of its importance.
For an ideal so grand, so important, and so necessary, I have a hard time trying to understand why so many do not seem to embrace it. Are they ignoring the primal instinct I simply have to believe we all possess to be compassionate? Do they simply misunderstand the true meaning of compassion? My fear is some people just don’t care, and I have to say, the thought breaks my heart.
One dictionary defines compassion as a noun, a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
I just don’t think that 23 word blurb even comes close to actually defining compassion.
Thích Nhất Hạnh is quoted as saying, “Compassion is a verb.” I agree.
Compassion without action is just a word, a simple noun like chair or rock. It has to be something more than a lovely concept or lofty ideal we sit around and talk about over coffee.
It’s not enough to have compassion, you have to be compassionate. How often do we see something or someone and think, oh, that’s heartbreaking, and then move on? We may feel compassion, but we don’t always act on it.
True compassion has to be acted on, it has to become tangible, it needs to exceed the definition printed to a page in a dictionary. It must be more than a feeling, more than a desire to act . . . it is the act that impacts.
Being a compassionate person says more about who we are as human beings than it does about those on the receiving end. Compassion does not mean acceptance. The capacity to care about the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of another should not be conditional, measured or rationed based on whether or not we agree with someone’s choices, their beliefs, or their lifestyle.
When you suffer, I suffer too. In attempting to relieve your burdens, I too find a sweet relief. Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard to feel compassion, let alone act on it. When I look at the monstrous acts committed by some, I have a hard time finding compassion for them . . . I have to close my eyes and envision the child they once were.
Sometimes, a prayer is all the compassion I can muster, but in that prayer, I ask the Lord to still my heart and help the one I am unable, perhaps unwilling to help. Christ had compassion for those who nailed him to a cross. He said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” I try to remember his grace as he slipped from earthly life, I try to remember that in the midst of the sorrow of his sacrifice, he showed compassion.
I don’t want to be thought of as a compassionate person, I want to be a compassionate person, but I must admit, there are moments when compassion becomes a choice I must make, moments when it would be so much easier not to be.
To me, this means looking past a persons deeds or circumstances and seeing the helplessness within them, the same helplessness that exists in each of us. I don’t have to subscribe to the same beliefs and ideologies someone may hold to extend a helping hand when they are in need, I simply need to reach out and offer it.
Sometimes, this means I offer a kind word to the unkind, charity to one who may be less than charitable, or help someone who would not go out of their way to help me. It may be naive, but there is a part of me that hopes my compassion for them may stir something within their own hearts, help them see that proverbial light I have been blessed to see.
Compassion is a verb.
It doesn’t end here.