We could all use a little extra compassion in our lives, don’t you think? Life seems to be so incredibly heavy for so many people. Folks are dealing with everything from physical and mental health concerns to financial and relational struggles and challenges. Ugh.
Do you know what song comes to mind when I think about all the hurt, fear, loneliness, and desperation people are carrying? It’s an oldie but a goodie by Jackie DeShannon – “What the World Needs Now is Love”.
Seriously, though. Couldn’t we use a little more empathy and compassion toward one another instead of the surplus of hate and negativity that is as readily available as advice with your firstborn?
Speaking of empathy and compassion, you might assume they are the same. They are closely related, however, they are not equals.
Empathy is simply understanding someone’s pain or struggle.
Compassion is understanding the challenges of one’s circumstances and wanting to take action and help.
Here’s the deal. If we just lean in a little and listen, we can hear that people are struggling and know that they feel bad. But taking that awareness a step further with a genuine desire to help is when the rubber meets the road.
Showing compassion for others will enrich your life in ways you can’t even imagine until you experience it for yourself. One of the most beautiful things about cultivating compassion in your life is the fulfilling relationships you find and develop.
And sister, life without meaningful relationships is just, well… life.
Compassion is not something you either have or don’t have.
According to research and scientific studies, compassion CAN be learned.
Compassion is not only a beneficial thing for the receiver, but for the giver, as well. It has been shown to benefit the physical and mental health of all parties involved.
In fact, at the risk of going all-out nerd girl on you, a study performed by Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek, & Finkel (2008) showed that those who consistently practiced compassion, experienced improved emotions, reduced depression, and overall life satisfaction.
Now that sounds like a life I want to be living. How about you?
Here are some simple suggestions to help you to cultivate genuine compassion in yourself and in your family.
5 Ways to Cultivate Genuine Compassion
Practice self-kindness and self-compassion – Learn to accept yourself for who you are. Embrace the fact that making mistakes and falling short is simply a part of being human.
Be kind on purpose – Don’t confuse being kind with being a people pleaser. You don’t have to compromise what’s true and right for you just to make someone else feel good.
Set judgment aside – Accept the perspective that life is hard and we’re all just doing the best we can.
Be a good listener – Resist the urge to interrupt or try to fix everything. Sometimes all people need is to be heard.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself – I can preach on this one, sister. If you have a heart to want to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Another way to root compassion within your heart is by practicing a consistent attitude of gratitude.
Check out last week’s blog, How Being Grateful Can Improve Your Mental Health, for some simple ways you can begin expressing gratitude by recognizing even the smallest things in life.