We continue today with my mini series on the three words that have woven themselves into much of my work of late: Curiosity, Compassion, and Courage.
Today it’s COMPASSION’s turn. Merriam-Webster defines this noun as the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
That’s fine. In fact, every definition of compassion that I found included two parts, exemplified here in this Yin-Yang poster on self-compassion:
The challenge is to find the balance between the yin and the yang, the head and the heart, the need to care and the need to be practical, the need for mercy and the need for justice.
But how did it get to be one of my THREE Cs?
Compassion is what keeps curiosity from being nosy.
The late American teacher and “Be Here Now” guru, Ram Das, talked of balancing compassion with wisdom. One without the other will be either “mushy and exhausting” or “dry and brittle.” You can tell which is which, I think.
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, in her book The Places That Scare You.
When we seek only to fix, soothe, tend, comfort, or heal, it’s easy to become exhausted or burn out. That was my point on “The Downside of Empathy” post. And yes, I now use empathy as synonymous with compassion; it’s just a difference in etiology: Greek vs. Latin.
Curiosity (what we discussed last week) pulls us to open the book, the box, the door; to explore the myth, the mantra. To initiate a conversation with someone we don’t understand. And, to do it without judgment.
Compassion, to me, is a choice we make to bring an empathetic consciousness to what we find. This can be harder than we realize, which is where courage comes in. But we’ll save that for next week.
How about you? How do you identify a feeling of compassion? Do you see it as having those two parts?
Next time: Courage[box] LEAPFROG, my tiny handbook for handling those tricky conversations we all face, is available in digital and paperback format. The audio book is in the works.
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