Developing Compassion – How and Why?

Deep down we all have a few things in common, we want avoid suffering and instead we want to be happy and fulfilled.  The path we each take to get there is unique, but our end goal is the same.  Understanding this and keeping it in mind throughout my days is probably one of the most powerful things I have recently learned.

“A narrow perspective makes even a small problem unbearable.”
– Dalai Lama

I came across a video that was posted on YouTube a few weeks back in which a particular college student made some insulting remarks against the Asian American community in her school.  The remarks were offensive, insensitive and immature.  When I watched it I felt mixed feelings, I felt slightly insulted and sorry for her simultaneously.  That being said, what was most saddening to me was the responses people would leave in the video and across the web.

People who felt very offended went ahead and left hate messages and made remarks that were just as insulting, if not more so, to her.  They felt empowered by the fact that everyone else was in a state of outrage, and they felt they had the right to retaliate in a similar fashion.  This was most saddening to me.

With a narrow perspective, we respond to bad behavior by exhibiting even worse behavior, and then we justify it.  If we instead took the time to feel compassion for that person who is insulting us, and respond appropriately, we would come to a much more dignified solution to the problem.  Instead of spreading hate, we would put and end to it.  More importantly, by showing love and compassion even towards those who offend us we make a powerful statement that others will remember.  This sort of influence is what we need if we ever want to achieve peaceful living.

Now, this all sounds good and pretty, you may say, but why should I care?  Fair question.  The point is, if you are going to be selfish at least be selfish in a wise way (as the Dalai Lama would say).  Think about your long-term happiness, not the very moment.  If you respond in a compassionate way to hateful behavior, the rewards are huge:

  • You gain peace of mind
  • Those around you learn from you, hence making your life better in the longer term
  • You gain respect from others
  • You will feel more fulfilled as time goes
  • Your perspective starts changing, so things become easier to deal with
  • Instead of wasting time and energy with hate, you will have that energy to work towards achieving your goals
  • If you are in a leadership position, being compassionate does not mean you will be perceived as weak.  Quite the opposite, showing compassion can be seen as a sign of strength and when carried effectively it inspires others to work better and listen to you.

In the end, it is through compassion that we will make a better living for ourselves.  We may never become quite like Mother Theresa, Ghandi, or Jesus, but we can nevertheless reap some rewards for our personal lives by becoming more compassionate and loving.  We will reduce our levels of stress which will improve the quality of our lives and allow us to enjoy each day more and more.

I recently began a routine to start each day saying the following quote, and often re-read and repeat it throughout the day as I feel like I need it.  Sometimes when dealing with difficult situations or people I say it over and over to myself.  The benefits of simply doing this are amazing, and I encourage everyone to give it a try:

“Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

I would love to hear your thoughts on compassion.  I have much to learn about compassionate behavior and I’m looking forward to continue forging a better future for others and myself with it.

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. saw that video of that girl from UCLA. 
    it seems she left school due to death threats and people harassing her family.
    Not everyone becomes intellectually matures at age 18.
    I think the people who retaliated were not any much more wiser than her.
    You reckon we should “turn the other cheek” when faced with such a situation in the future?

  2. Yes, the responses were most saddening.  My thoughts about the “turn the other cheek” philosophy are mixed.  I believe that you do not necessarily need to passively allow others to make you the victim of their attacks and abuse.  However, I do think that any response or reaction we have would benefit from coming from a compassionate heart and a cool mind.  Compassion would allow us to minimize the spread of negativity and replace it with positivity.

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