One of the finest qualities of being human

"Compassion is to look beyond your own pain, to see the pain of others."
— Yasmin Mogahed

"Instead of putting others in their place, put yourself in their place."
— Amish Proverb

If you increase your compassion for others, you will find that your expression of forgiveness, love, empathy, gentleness, kindness, and tolerance of the foibles of others, etc. will come more naturally. Also, your distrust of others, your anger, fear, and other negative emotions will loosen their hold on you.

Loving from the heart is an act of service to the world, as noted by the Dalai Lama in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, of which the following is an excerpt:

We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities.

For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others. Nor is it so remarkable that our greatest joy should come when we are motivated by concern for others. But that is not all. We find that not only do altruistic actions bring about happiness but they also lessen our experience of suffering.

Here I am not suggesting that the individual whose actions are motivated by the wish to bring others’ happiness necessarily meets with less misfortune than the one who does not. Sickness, old age, mishaps of one sort or another are the same for us all. But the sufferings which undermine our internal peace—anxiety, doubt,

disappointment—these things are definitely less. In our concern for others, we worry less about ourselves.

When we worry less about ourselves, an experience of our own suffering is less intense.

The basic question to ask yourself is this: In order to prevent my ego from destroying the love and compassion that is much needed in the world today, “Am I willing to show compassion to myself and others so that the world can change?” Here are other questions to ask yourself about this important quality.

Exploring COMPASSION in Your Life

What does compassion mean to you?

When you hear about contributions from a major corporation for a situation that requires a great deal of help, it is easy to think that much compassion is needed on such a large scale these days that your offer of help would not be of much use. But the reality is that compassion is the offer of a glass of lemonade to the person who mows your lawn on a hot day. It is the attempt to engage a child in conversation while waiting for a plane at the airport when a mother has her hands full with a crying baby. To what extent do you look for small actions that can have a major impact on a single individual?

None of us is without the need for a little compassion now and then. Therefore, as you look back on your life, when has someone acted with compassion toward you in such a way that it made a major impact on your life, or allowed you to accomplish something you otherwise would not have been able to do?

What symbol best represents compassion—something that can remind you of this important quality when you notice someone who needs a helping hand?

This exploration of compassion was created by Arlene Harder, MA, MFT, resident of Villa Gardens, a Front Porch Retirement Community in Pasadena, California. The material is not copyrighted and may be used with attribution. (Photo on Dreamstime by Arturs Budkevics.)