I’ve been thinking a lot about compassion lately.
We have collectively been going through a lot lately. Life has felt overwhelming. And when life feels this way, we feel dragged down, sad, anxious, and overwhelmed. We suffer.
In times like this, as in all times of suffering, it is important to show ourselves compassion. However, I think it is really hard for a lot of people, especially people in the U.S., to do this.
That is because the U.S. has a really strong ethic of productivity and effectiveness. We like people who are productive and get things done. And we like people, programs, and gadgets that make our life better and that help us do the things we want.
Suffering doesn’t make us feel productive or effective.
In fact, it often makes us feel the opposite. So, if we greatly prize productivity and effectiveness, we are often harsh and critical to ourselves in suffering, rather than compassionate.
While such a response to suffering is understandable, it is counter-productive. The sole purpose of human beings is not productivity and effectiveness. For instance, we are not robots or computers whose purpose is to give appropriate outputs. No, indeed.
Rather, humans beings are one-of-a-kind individuals with a unique goodness to share with the world.
So our purpose is to recognize our intrinsic worth, connect with our purpose, and connect with one another in flourish-friendly relationships. These things help us share our uniqueness goodness with the world.
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And this relates to compassion.
As we live our own unique life, we inevitably face some failures, disappointments, setbacks, and tragedy. These things are a normal part of being a human being. They are also painful experiences and wound our spirit.
If we treat ourselves harshly during these times, we further wound our spirit and prevent it from healing properly. And this can make it harder for us to share our unique goodness with the world. If, however, we show ourselves compassion in our suffering, we help our spirits heal. And we even help ourselves grow through our painful experiences.
So, showing ourselves compassion helps us share our unique goodness with the world.
The late Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my favorite authors who writes about compassion. Imagine someone saying these beautiful words to you when you are feeling sad. Imagine how comforting and kind this would feel to you. The awesome news is that when we practice compassion towards ourselves or others, we can catalyze these same beautiful feelings. The quote above is from his book True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart.
I will be writing more about compassion in coming posts, but for now, I wish for you that you may show compassion to yourself in your suffering. And I wish that the pain in your heart will heal and that you will continue to share your beautiful unique goodness with the world.
Here is an intention or prayer you can use as you think about compassion.
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Did you know you can now work with me? I do philosophical consulting, and one of the things I do is help people develop an Intrinsic Worth Mindset. Developing such a mindset is one of the best things we can do to help us show more compassion to ourselves and others. You can read more about my philosophical consulting practice here: Work With Me