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Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a 4-year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly man who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry”.
It’s Not What You Think
There is a big myth about what compassion is. We’re taught to believe that compassion is alleviating somebody’s pain. On the surface, this seems like a noble and just cause. As pleasure–seeking–pain–avoiding cratures on this planet, it’s natural that we’d also want to allevaite the pain of others. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, to mistake that as compassion, would be misguided.
What anybody wants, what we all want seeep inside, is to be held, supported, and allowed to have our experience. We want the freedom to simply be ourselves without judgment from others, and especially from ourselves. Often we go through life being told how we should feel, what we should feel, when we should feel it, what’s not okay to feel, when we can’t feel certain things, and so on. This results in us suppressing a lot of our emotions. Whatever our experience, we’re taught at a young age what is acceptable and when it is acceptable.
Although well–intentioned, this is a distorted sense of compassion. In fact, it lacks true compassion. Parents, peers, and teachers often want to help us avoid feeling pain. They don’t want to see us suffer, and so they give us guidance on who to be and when to be that person. This guidance comes both explicitly and implicitly.
Explicitly it can be telling us to eat our vegetables or do our homework. The idea is that if we go through these less–dificult experiences now, we will avoid the pain of having an unhealthy and sick body and mind. In other words, the people who are about us are trying to help us avoid future pain. Implicitly, it comes by the examples others lead. We see how they respond to others pain, and we learn “that is how to help people in pain.”
There’s nothing wrong with any of that. However, it’s short–sighted. The reason is that most often than not, what is lost in the communication is an awareness and acceptance of the present moment. Very rarely do those parents or authority figures take time to honor exactly what is present... they’re too busy stuck in the past or the future. Listening to a child who doesn’t want to do homework or eat vegetables doesn’t seem negotiable. Parents will often try to create firm foundations and boundaries, even going so far as to say “It’s going to happen and that’s final!”
But what about the child who hears the message, “What I want doesn’t matter?” or “What I feel nobody cares about?” This child has not received a sense of compassion, in fact, quite the opposite. Again, the child is being told who to be and how to be, without any acknowledgement of who the child actually is. When a parent comes from a place of true compassion, however, he or she will realize that they actually minimize the pain their child will endure over the course of an entire lifetime.
When we understand compassion for what it truly is, it can alleviate pain at the soul level. Compassion is actually a loving kindess that holds space for another to have their experience. If that person’s experience is painful, the loving kindness includes being present with them so that pain can be experienced, expressed, and let go of. Not suppressed.
I like to think of the example of two friends connecting after one of them has had a heartbreak. An unaware friend, one who doesn’t understand the true nature of compassion, might say “Forget that loser. Let’s go shopping and have some cake.” The goal is to medicate the person in pain, such that she doesn’t have to feel her emotions. The subconscious message being sent is “Pain is bad”. Don’t feel it. Here’s a way to avoid feeling those “bad emotions”. Since nobody wants to feel bad, this sounds like compassion. But it isn’t.
That’s because pain isn’t bad. It’s a merely a message from our soul that we have an experience that needs to be looked at more fully, accepted, and integrated with our experience. It’s a sign that tells ourselves and the world that there is an opportunity for love to support us in our experience.
To continue the above example, true compassion is the friend who sits down and merely allows the person to have their expereince. Sure, words of wisdom may be appropriate. However, they’re not necessary. What is necessary is the person’s kind and loving presence. Loving Presence alone can help heal the heart when it supports another to have their entire experience in its entirety.
This is the real wisdom of the heart that is so often missed when the heart hurts: The best healing occurs not because of what we say, but rather, because of who we are. When we care, people know it. They feel safe. And that allows them to experience their emotions fully, to liberate those emotions, to get unstuck, and ultimately to experience the kind of freedom that we all long for.
Negative subconscious memories, stories and experiences are dictating your actions, your beliefs and your view of the world. They distort your ability to be authentically compassionate towards the people you care about. Discover how to transform these limiting histories into positive mental patterns in Chris’ 24–week course “Liberate Your Life”. Start Liberating Your Life Today
This article is generously contributed by Chris Cade from chriscade.com
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© Thea Westra publishes a wealth of material for increased life power, self improvement, inspiration and personal success. Adding wings to our unique journey of life. See her many personal development resources at www.forwardstepsblog.com
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