By Silvia Uribe
We all tend to think that we are the center of the world, the most important person, and of course, we feel we are the only one who has problems, who suffers, and we find it very difficult at times to navigate through life. We stop enjoying life just because we’re focused on our problems.
Frequently, we complain so much, that it becomes our norm: we don’t have enough money to buy enough stuff to compete enough with our friends, and even with our enemies. We complain about how we look, about our hair, about the dress size we cannot fit in, about our house, our neighbors, and about where and how they park. We also complain about our friends, and about our work; about our short eyelashes, and about not being able to buy a newer car. The list goes on.
In short, we forget to live, and we consume ourselves with negativity.
I don’t usually write about my private life, but when talking about compassion, it has to be personal to illustrate its effects and results.
For the last 10 years, life has given me the opportunity to be close to vulnerable individuals who are, or at least feel, very lonely. With those who think that their bad luck will never cease, and they seem to be right. With those whose sadness has found a way to settle in their souls, and despair seems like the only thing alive within them. Many of them are individuals without resources to make their life better, they lack options at that point, and perhaps they never had them. Many of them did nothing to deserve what they got. One can say they’re victims of their circumstances.
To some, it sounds a bit illogical for me to say that working with and around these individuals is an opportunity. People I know often perceive it more as a challenge, something that, due to the emotional charge involved, they would not be able to do. My close friends know that I see it as a meaningful, relevant thing to do, but most of them also think they couldn’t do it, if offered the option. I disagree. It is, not as hard as it seems. In fact, it is not hard at all.
Compassion is the secret. Compassion gives us a chance to relate and help other human beings, and to see how relatively little effort on our part it takes to make someone’s life a lot better. This is an encouraging experience. But, as altruist and romantic as this sounds, it is not the main reason why I think being compassionate works. The right question would be: What’s in it for the one who is compassionate? And, the answer is: A lot.
Compassion gives us the opportunity to put things in perspective.
In my case, I realized that my life was as easy as it can get, even though I have my share of minor troubles. My family life, with all its ups and downs, is strong and stable. I have a constant income, and a place I call home. My body is not perfect, but it definitely works much better and is healthier than many of those with whom I work on a daily basis. I have good friends, and I’m able to spare a little money to have some fun with them. When I came to the realization that compared to others’ my life was so much better, I stopped complaining. I started living a purposeful life, and up until now, I enjoy every minute of it. I am thankful for all the good I have. The words need, and pain, and life, and justice suddenly acquired a new, and a very real meaning, and compassion was not only a word anymore. It became a way of living.
However - and this is very important - what I understand for compassion is very different from pity. I believe that compassion speaks more to the personal feelings and attitude that one has towards other people and their circumstances, and pity is more a diminishing impression of another. With compassion, we can put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and imagine how we would feel in their situation, and this is usually a humbling experience. This is what helps put things in perspective.
Practicing more compassion towards other fellow human beings has done more for me, than whatever I’ve ever been able to do for them. True, I may have assisted them, but they have changed my life for the better. By being focused on someone other than myself, unexpectedly, I became a happier, more thankful person every day of my life.
That’s the power of compassion.