“In separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength.” Buddha
This quote captures the importance of compassion – the power that truly matters. It is an intention to understand another person with an aspiration to help. Really? Isn’t power something that is often associated with being better; having or owning more? Well, the definition is yours to choose.
What I find is that strength manifests itself in various forms and serves the chosen purpose. For example if our aim is to win a competition, we have to prove our strength by being better, stronger, smarter, and luckier than the competitors. Simple to understand it, because this is the way we have been operating so far. More precisely, competitiveness can be seen as one of the driving forces of our society. Clearly, understanding our strengths and working on them is crucial for our survival and development. But maybe our society has grown out of the survival mode and is ready for a second step?
This is where I see compassion coming in. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t see compassion as a new phenomenon. Buddha’s wisdom in relation to this topic is stored in time that dates back many centuries B.C.E. What I mean is that perhaps we are ready to allow compassion to embrace a larger part of society than ever before.
So far compassion and the deepest acts of kindness have been occasionally getting the limelight. There have been remarkable moments that have touched our heart on a larger scale (e.g Mother Teresa’s actions) as well as those comforting times when we ourselves have felt or offered an understanding and helpful shoulder to lean on. But what if we embrace more of compassion into our everyday lives and nurture our actions with it? What if we stop for a moment to truly listen, understand and help those in need?
“It all sounds wonderful, but don’t you think it’s a bit naïve?” – is a question that’s often asked together with the claims to support it, such as “I don’t have time to do it; who is going to look after me when I am in need; I don’t have what is required to help that person; and on top of that, I have enough problems of my own to worry about”. This is when we can feel the aspect of separation the strongest.
But isn’t this separation – my wellbeing vs your wellbeing – exactly why there is so much unhappiness and fear. In the early days, tribes were attacking each other until they understood the value of cooperation, exchange and more sophisticated approach. Well, we have learned to cooperate, but still not completely. We need to understand that yes, we are different, yes we need to develop our strengths, yes we have to push ourselves to get further. But equally, beneath it all, we are social beings who can co-create extraordinary results by working together.
Actions that are guided by sincere intentions to help will lead us further in the long run. The help can happen in multiple ways. Little compassionate acts, such as honest, but carefully delivered feedback; judgement-free listening; or just being available, can be very helpful. Therefore, I agree, compassion is a true strength. It takes you a step further, a step towards another person. Moreover, it’s not just socially beneficial but also scientifically proven to have great impact on our own well-being. So choosing to act with compassion is a win-win situation.
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