Compassion: What it Means and Why it May Just Save the World

We Live in a World That Lacks Compassion

At some point in your life, you have probably heard someone make this well-known proclamation, which is totally devoid of all compassion: “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there!” This is a common response when you go to a friend or family member complaining about some situation that left you feeling bewildered by the “bad” behavior of another human being.   

Chances are, upon hearing this statement, you shrugged your shoulders, shook your head in agreement, and accepted it as a legitimate explanation for whatever situation you were confronted with. After all, most of us acknowledge the fact that we live in a violent, unforgiving, and ruthless culture that often lacks any genuine care or compassion for “the next guy.”

We approach life from the perspective that devouring one another in the name of power, money, and misaligned ambition is the name of the game. “It is what it is,” we say. After all, if you want to get ahead, you’re going to have to step on some toes, right? Wrong!

Dogs Eating Dogs? Really?

It’s time we stopped perpetuating this bogus dog-eat-dog concept. When you really think about it, dogs don’t really eat other dogs anyway. Most of them get along and want to be friends. Generally speaking, dogs peacefully coexist with other dogs – and if we saw them trying to eat eachother, most of us would try put an end to the savagery.

Yet, many of us generally approach life with a dog-eat-dog mentality. We are quick to exercise impatience, prejudice, judgment, criticism, anger, and even violence when it comes to how we treat our fellow man (or woman) in pursuit of our own “happiness.”

We Need a Global Paradigm Shift in the Way We Treat Others  

When we act without compassion, we experience divisiveness, discord, and contempt for others – which leads to racism, religious intolerance, social stigma, and even war. Just think for a moment about how much better life would be on planet Earth if there were a paradigm shift in our thoughts and attitudes toward others.

What if, collectively, we decided we simply wouldn’t tolerate this so-called dog-eat-dog attitude anymore? What if human beings everywhere shifted toward a consciousness of compassion instead? Wouldn’t it be better for everybody involved if we all just got along and cared for one another? Think for a moment about what it would be like to live in a “dogs-care-about-other-dogs” world. Imagine the possibilities!

Compassion – What It Is and Why It Just May Save the World

Making positive change and creating a “dogs-care-about-other-dogs” way of life requires people everywhere to adopt a more compassionate attitude. In order to accomplish this, we first must truly understand this principle. In many ways, the world has become cold, cruel, and uncaring. As a result, many of us truly don’t know what it truly means to exercise compassion.

If you struggle with relating to this concept, here are a few definitions that might help clear things up:

  • Compassion is concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
  • It is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
  • It is synonymous with “mercy.”
  • It means showing kindness, caring, and a willingness to help others.
  • Compassion is the ability to understand the emotional state of another person or oneself.

The Dalai Lama has said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

The world is wrought with war, conflict, and continued threats of violence that promise the bloodshed of entire countries. Surely a greater global demonstration of compassion could bring about peace and harmony. When extended from one person to another, a compassionate deed is the thread that holds the very fabric of humankind together. If none of us had any regard whatsoever for other people, the entire world would unravel.

Indeed, compassion is a necessity. Without it, we will ultimately blow ourselves to smithereens.

How Being Compassionate Can Benefit You Personally

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “What’s in it for me? Why should I go out of my way to be more concerned about the suffering of others?” This is not surprising. Such an attitude is the direct result of living in a dog-eat-dog world.

We have been conditioned to look out for self at the expense of another’s pain. We have been trained to think that if there no personal gain to be had, then there is really no sense in changing our behavior. We inherently prefer to be “right” rather than compassionate.

In hopes that you will be more motivated to be compassionate when you understand what is in it for you, here are five ways you can benefit from showing compassion for others:

  1. You will feel a greater sense of inner peace and happiness. Being intolerant, unkind, or cold-hearted toward others makes you feel bitter, angry, resentful, impatient, and frustrated.
  2. According to Greater Good Magazine, research suggests that connecting with others in a meaningful way through compassion helps you enjoy better mental and physical health and speeds up recovery from disease by reducing stress, improving immune function, and lowering blood pressure.
  3. Practicing compassion improves your relationships with those you care about most by eliminating conflict. It makes you quick to forgive and counteracts any feelings of hostility or aggravation you feel when others make a mistake or offend you.
  4. When you care about the suffering of another, you feel a greater connection to other human beings and the world around you. This improves social interactions in your everyday life.
  5. Compassion makes the world a better place to live in. Surely, you have run into people who were just downright unforgiving toward you because you made a mistake or held a certain personal belief. You don’t want to be one of these people! When you are more compassionate toward those who cross your path, you are making the world a more peaceful place.

These are just a few of the many ways you can improve your own life and personal experiences by being compassionate.

How To Practice Compassion In Your Everyday Life

It’s one thing to understand what compassion is and know that it can benefit you personally. It is another thing altogether to shift from a dog-eat-dog mindset to a dogs-care-about-other-dogs mentality.

If you have a difficult time being compassionate toward those around you, that’s okay. It takes practice! However, once you learn to implement this principle in your everyday life, you will see that it brings you a greater sense of peace and makes the world a more beautiful place to live in.

Here are some ways you can practice in your everyday life:  

Recognize that most people truly are doing the best they can.

Sure, some people are lazy. Some people are rude. And, some people are just downright difficult to deal with. But, think for a minute about the bruised psychology that exists behind lazy/rude/difficult people.

There is something not quite right with those who seem unable to carry out their duties and responsibilities with grace and dignity. They are hurting or damaged in some way, which makes human relationships challenging for them. Yet, in spite of their personal difficulties, they get out of bed every morning, face the day, and give what they can.

Even if someone else’s performance isn’t up to your own personal standards, most people are doing the best they can with what they have to work with.

Respect the fact that everyone has a right to be who they are.

There are three very beautiful ideals presented in The United States Declaration of Independence – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In fact, this sacred document asserts that these are not only ideals, but inalienable rights extended to each and every one of us by Our Creator.

When you approach the world with this perspective, you can accept people for where they are – NOT where you wish they would be. You can approach those who seemed ill-equipped to face life on its own terms with lovingkindness, compassion, and acceptance.

Even if you disagree with someone because their views are offensive to you, you can feel compassionate about their circumstance because they have been misguided somewhere along the way.

Remember that everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

The truth is, when we cross paths with a stranger, we have no idea what is going on in their life – just like they don’t know what is going on in yours. Whether someone is battling an addiction, caring for an aging parent, raising a sick child, living with chronic pain, or facing a financial crisis; every human being on the planet is dealing with some kind of difficulty.

Realizing this can make it easier to be patient with the guy who cuts you off in traffic. Keep in mind that you have no idea where he is going – he might be racing to get to the hospital because his mother just had a heart attack. If you knew for a fact that he was on the way to the hospital, wouldn’t you feel compassion for him instead of angst?

When you look upon your fellow man, look upon him (or her!) with compassion. For if you actually knew what people were really dealing with when they go home at night, you would surely feel regret for having ever judged them so harshly in the first place.

Try to put yourself In someone else’s shoes.

None of us knows what it is like to be somebody else. We only know what it is like to be ourselves. And, if you get honest, you would probably agree that you experience life to be pretty difficult on some days.

Think about this the next time you get frustrated with the girl who is checking you out at the store because she isn’t moving fast enough for you. Recognize that she has been standing on her feet all day at a job that doesn’t pay her very much working for an employer who doesn’t appreciate her. Extend her some grace and mercy. Be kind.

Be compassionate toward yourself.

This is perhaps the most valuable suggestion you can take when it comes to being compassionate toward the world around you. You can’t give away what you don’t have. If you judge yourself harshly, talk down to yourself, and are slow to forgive yourself when you make a mistake; you are likely to be this way toward other people.

If, on the other hand, you are kind to yourself and work to alleviate your own suffering through forgiveness, grace and mercy; you will be more inclined to be this way with others. If you aren’t practicing compassion in your inner world, you certainly won’t extend it to the world around you.

Get Involved – The World Is Run By Those Who Show Up

You might be surprised to know that, according to Statista, the volunteer rate in 2017 was about 26 percent. This equates to about 67.8 million people freely and actively giving up their time to help those in need of some kind of assistance.

If you really want to learn how to be more compassionate in your everyday life, you can always volunteer your time to help those who are in need or less fortunate than you. It is a surefire way to reduce the suffering of others. This is compassion in action!  

Remember what the Dalai Lama said – compassion is a necessity. The world needs it. People need it. You need it. Make the decision today that you are no longer going to be a dog who eats other dogs. Be a dog who cares.

Compassion: What it Means and Why it May Just Save the World
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By |2018-11-12T17:28:35+00:00October 20th, 2018|

About the Author:

Bethany Heinesh
Bethany Heinesh is a professional writer and proud Marine Corps veteran who specializes in mental health advocacy. Bethany is passionate about empowering people to break free from the bondage of addiction so they can create a beautiful life in recovery like she has. Bethany has a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations with a Minor in Religious Studies from the University of Houston and a Master of Arts in Administration-Communication Arts from the University of the Incarnate Word.

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