“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein
The word compassion seems loaded in recent years. From the Dalai Lama to psychology scholars, compassion is taught and studied in order to instruct others of what it is and of what it can do for our individual selves, others, and society. A highly simplified version of what compassion means is complete acceptance and unconditional love for ourselves, others, and the world we inhabit. Compassion involves more than recognizing and feeling others’ physical, mental, and emotional suffering as one’s own. Compassion requires introspection of our belief systems in order to offer justice to our realities.
When we see others suffering our natural human response is to try and help to alleviate their suffering. Feeling what those who are suffering feel, whether sadness, frustration, fear, or other negative emotions does not aid anyone. Also, assisting by telling the other how to alleviate their pain and suffering does not do anything except attach a certain degree of judgment and selfishness. “Should” and “should not” statements are great distortions that not only negatively affect our mental and emotional narrative they also inhibit acceptance and love. Any demands forced upon others or the world in terms of what it should or should not do to meet our personal ideals of eliminating suffering is not conducive toward fostering compassion. Using “should” or “should not” statements reveals our rejection of others and the world. Rather than directing others on how to manage their suffering, meet their suffering with compassionate care. Mindfully supporting someone during their time of emotional turmoil speaks on compassion.
Practicing compassion is practicing forgiveness and unconditional love. Not everyone nor everything will fit our ideas and beliefs of what, how, and why “should” and “should not” statements. Letting go of our attachment to always wanting to be right eases our ability to alter our perceptions and enable compassion to take hold. Therefore, learning not to react to others, but rather understand and accept them for who they are highlights some principles of compassion. The same principle applies to our perception of the world. Rather than absorbing the suffering and chaos of the world which only perpetuates the pain and sorrow, awareness and acknowledgment will serve a potentially better end by humbling us.