Compassion means to have sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others and yourself.
Being Compassionate Means …
We recognize that we’re all human beings with the same challenges and suffering.
We don’t judge or criticize others because we can never know the whole story or what they’re really going through.
We extend the same loving-kindness to ourselves.
Spirituality and Compassion
Cultivating compassion is important for our spiritual growth because feeling compassionate expands our consciousness and reinforces the spiritual truth of unity.
When we criticize or judge others, we’re distancing ourselves from them.
We’re creating a sense of separation. We feel, “I’m not like him. I’m better than her.”
Having more compassion will make you and everyone around you happier because no one likes to be criticized.
And people can sense your unspoken judgements.
People can also sense your love and sympathy which will win you more friends and support, and increase your magnetism.
We are all part of a vast interconnected web of consciousness.
And we have many ways of communicating with each other.
So in developing compassion, our thoughts become as important as our words.
Compassion for Ourselves
Sometimes we judge ourselves most harshly.
This comes from false notions of perfectionism and impossibly high standards.
It’s good to have high principles and strive for excellence. But balance is the key.
When you have compassion for yourself, you treat yourself kindly with understanding, even if you feel that you’ve messed up somehow.
Self compassion is a struggle for some people because their mental critic plays a tape that constantly berates them, pointing out all their faults (even imaginary) and constantly reminding them that they’re not worthy of love, respect, …, you name it.
Often these voices come from our childhood.
If you listen calmly, mindfully without getting drawn in, you may recognize the voice of your mother, father or some other authority figure from your childhood.
They should have treated you better.
But they had their own issues and they couldn’t.
We must show compassion for them also, understanding that maybe they had unhappy childhoods too and never learned how to behave differently.
How can we be more compassionate?
1. Meditation or mindful practice
Meditation or any mindful practice helps you become more aware of your thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors.
Seeing ourselves as we really are can be quite a shock which is why many people abandon their practices.
But awareness is the most important first step. You can’t change what you aren’t aware of.
You can become aware of your negative self-talk and see it for what it is.
You’ll be able to sort out what is true and what you just accepted without question from someone else.
Then you can replace the negative thoughts with helpful positive one.
Affirmations are one of our most powerful tools for changing our thoughts. But you must know how to use affirmations properly.
Often people say affirmations don’t work.
Some reasons people aren’t getting the results they want:
- The affirmation is worded badly.
- It’s not believable, so the subconscious mind rejects it.
- They don’t repeat it with enough energy and concentration.
- They don’t give it enough time. You didn’t develop these thoughts overnight and you’re not going to eliminate them instantly. (Although, you can with enough energy and concentration. But most of us can’t.)
Affirmation do take time and work, but they’re very effective.
Have a look at my article, “The Power of Affirmation for Positive Change” for much more on affirmations including guidelines on how to write and use them. You can find many examples of affirmations that work in our Affirmations section.
3. Intentions and Reflection
- Each day, simply have the intention of being compassionate and showing compassion to everyone you encounter. Make it a part of your morning ritual to remind yourself to be compassionate.
- Then, before you go to sleep, reflect on how compassionate you were that day. Remind yourself again to be compassionate the next day. It’s especially powerful to record these reflections in a journal and very encouraging to see the progress you’re making.
- Focus on the similarities you share with others. Human brains are great at spotting differences. However, we have to make a conscious effort to spot the similarities.
- When you find yourself feeling less than happy with someone, try to list as many things as you can that you share in common.
- Remember that all humans are similar in the ways that matter. For example, we all need love, attention, happiness, affection, food, and shelter.
4. Be empathetic.
With all the stuff happening in our lives, it’s easy to focus on ourselves and ignore the plight of others.
It’s easier to be empathetic towards someone you already love.
So let’s start there:
- Consider the similarities that others share with your loved ones. Now imagine your loved one is suffering.
- If you can see another person as being similar to your loved one, it will become easy to be sensitive to their suffering.
- Keep in mind that another person is someone else’s loved one.
- How would you want your loved one to be treated during a challenging time?
- Treat others that way.
5. Be compassionate with yourself.
You might have noticed that people who are hard on themselves are also hard on others. If you won’t give yourself a break when you need it, you’re less likely to do it for someone else.
- Appreciate yourself and the challenges that you’ve experienced in your own life. You’ll become more capable of doing the same for others, too.
- Recognize that time you spend on yourself is time well spent. Refrain from viewing it as an act of selfishness. You’re just as important as anyone else. You can’t give what you don’t have.
- Let go of needing to be perfect. Nobody’s perfect, so it’s a game that can’t be won. If you’ll stop demanding perfection of yourself, you’ll stop requiring others to be perfect, too.
6. Be fully present with others.
The ultimate kindness is to be 100% present with someone. This means that when you interact with other people, you’ll be really focused, really paying attention to what they’re saying. Be supportive and a good listener without thinking any stray thoughts. And no checking your phone either.
It takes practice to listen purposefully, to communicate and truly hear the answers of the other person. When you practice mindful compassion, it lets the other person know that you care about him or her.
7. Remember the times that others have been kind to you.
Perhaps you can do the same favor for someone else.
8. Remember the times that others have been unkind to you.
Perhaps you can spare someone else from feeling the same pain.
Benefits of Practicing Compassion
- Being compassionate is really a gift you give to yourself. When you’re kinder to others, you learn to be kinder to yourself.
- You’ll discover that your relationships, both personal and professional ones, will improve. You’ll be open to the experiences and the heartaches as well as the joy of other people.
- People who are compassionate experience less stress than people who have little or no compassion.
- When you are compassionate towards others, they will be more compassionate towards you.
- You’ll be happier because it just feels better to treat others with loving kindness and symphony.