There is a wonderful conversation going on at a blog I read regularly regarding what values do we hold close and what those values are rooted in. My post was about the practice of compassion. The blog owner asked me to define compassion since some people use the term as an explanation or excuse for inaction, accepting poor treatment, and embracing victimhood.
Beginning of response:
I base my practice of compassion based on what I’ve read and interpreted from thinkers such as Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle, Thomas Merton, and Thich Nat Hahn; Christian religious tradition; a wonderfully liberal Catholic priest (sadly he retired); my family; my yoga practice and studies; and my interactions with people on a daily basis. Also, I read a great deal, fiction and non-fiction, and I gather information from those sources as well.
Compassionate action expresses itself differently in different people. The same way love is expressed differently from one person to the next. To me there is no one way to live a compassionate life. Some examples of my practice are my intent to live in a non-violent (physically, emotionally, verbally) manner; to do no harm to myself or to any one else; to honor and respect myself and others; to see other people shine and not feel diminished or envious.
Compassion does not mean I am a doormat, slave, or sucker. I haven’t suspended my good judgment, critical thinking abilities, or dispensed with wise counsel. It does not mean I am in the “save alla our people” business either. I chose not to pursue this route not because I am angry or defeated or exhausted from trying to save people who don’t want to listen, but rather, where I have given honest effort from a place of love, what more can be done? If people don’t listen then, okay, I’ve done my best. I am not willing to destroy myself trying to save someone else. I will not allow someone to mistreat, use, or abuse me. The trust and respect I give in a relationship is the trust and respect that must be returned. If is not, then I change/end the relationship; not out of anger or spite but because to continue the relationship in its current form is harmful to me.
My practice of compassion is not just outwardly directed. In fact, my compassion is mostly directed toward myself. I do not know if it is possible to completely love and accept other people if I do not love and accept me. I am working on not allowing myself to stress out over what I cannot change --- others. I have lived that experience. I shall not repeat it. That is how I was introduced to my personal limits. I finally listened to my still small voice [well, during a panic attack…but hey at least I listened :-) ].
Each person has to define their own limits. Thich Nat Hahn’s limits are waaaaay different from mine. He’s a good person. I am a good person.
After deciding on cultivating compassion, I can tell the difference in my life. What and who manifests in my life now is 1000% more positive and loving and joyful than what used to show up. My practice is rooted in what I have encountered on my journey thus far and in my ‘Being-ness’ or ‘Authentic self’ or ‘Who I Truly Am’ or ‘Soul’.
For me compassion is not a generalized term. Compassion is a value. Compassion is not a slogan or some vague term. Compassion is a daily practice and lived experience.
End of response.
I regard compassion as a verb indicating action, not as an adjective implying hopelessness. Compassion is not powerlessness. Compassion is not about defining yourself as a victim. Compassion is having the strength to stand up to injustice. Compassion is the hard work of remaining true to who you are even when it would be easier to betray yourself and behave like some else.
It is important bw/bg define terms like compassion, friendship, honesty, and integrity. We must not merely repeat them, we must truly know what these terms mean to us. Not for approval by someone outside of ourselves, but for ourselves alone.
Let's get to work......