I think this is a topic that’s simply not talked about enough in our daily lives.
What does “Compassion” mean?
If you Google the word, the first thing you get is the definition; noun:sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
I think that compassion means a lot more than that.
Today, I listened to a podcast through NPR’s Ted Radio Hour called “Just a Little Nicer” . The show was about compassion, and about what it meant, and how it affects us, and how we can implement it better.
The first speaker in the program was Sally Kohn. She’s a progressive talking head who works within the Conservative/Right Wing sphere of television media. She talked about “emotional compassion”. That term, and what it means, really struck a chord with me. I’ve been trying, for years now, to figure out why we are so ‘mean’ to each other when it comes to politics. I began being interested in what was going on politically in our country about 10 or 12 years ago. Before that, it wasn’t something that I really cared about. In the past 12 years though, I’ve seen the dialogue between the Right and the Left deteriorate right into the murky, muddy depths of pond scum. Civility has been completely lost; not just by politicians themselves, but more so by the public. You. Me. Her. Him. Them. We’ve devolved into veritable troglodytes.
In her 6 minute TED Talk about “Emotional Correctness”, Ms. Kohn talks to us about how the intent with which we say things is what really affects the level of discourse. She tells us how we’ve been so focused on the topic of political correctness, that we’ve completely forgotten about emotional correctness. We don’t stop to think about how our words will impact someone else, much less stop and think about why the other person thinks the way they do.
Taking the time to step into someone else’s shoes, and give thought to what’s causing them to believe in what they believe can go a long way towards softening the language and the intention of the language that we use. Having compassion for that person who sits on the opposite side of the political spectrum, genuine compassion, will prevent one from being emotionally abusive towards them.
If you want to watch Sally Kohn’s 6 minute talk, you can find it here. I really encourage you to listen to it. It’s worth it. I promise.
Now, compassion in the regular world, outside of politics. What does it mean exactly? Google says it’s ‘sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others’. I try to apply this definition to people I want to feel compassion towards, to help me overcome the anger that I have in my heart, and I haven’t quite decided if that definition fits what I feel, or what I want to feel.
It’s tough to let go of anger, and it’s not possible for anger and compassion to share the same space. When I think about feeling compassion, I feel at the same time that I must let go of the anger, and letting go of the anger is not something I can easily do. Being angry is what I (wrongly) feel gives me strength. I feel as though I’d be giving in, or admitting failure if I give it up, but intellectually I know that’s not true. Then the emotions just start to get muddled and I’m right back to where I started.
So compassion, finding it, feeling it, practicing it, towards the people in my life who have hurt me is a goal of mine. I’m not going to call it a ‘resolution’, I’m going to call it an ‘ongoing goal’. We’ll see what happens.
I’m very curious though to know how others interpret the word “compassion”. If you’re reading this, and care to chime in, leave me a comment with your thoughts on the subject.
Are you able to feel compassion towards a person/people who have wronged you? If you have, how did you rationalize letting go of the anger?
If you can’t, or have a hard time with it, why do you think it’s so?
I think this would be a good dialogue to have.