In hindsight, it seems almost intuitive now that for the month of July we would have chosen COMPASSION as one of our mood boards. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that it is the birthday month of one of the most compassionate human beings that walked this earth. In his example we witnessed how compassion for others can lead to change.
COMPASSION binds us to one another – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. ~ Nelson Mandela
Imagine a world without Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr and Princess Diana, to name a few. It is because of their compassion that so many selfless and heroic deeds happened throughout history.
Given the recent events not just in South Africa but also the rest of the globe, you would be forgiven for thinking that the world has gone mad. The chaos that was created here in South Africa caused significant damage and loss to lives, livelihoods, food security, property, the economy and mental health.
Almost as quickly as the mayhem was created, individuals and groups came together and acted to help those in need. The driving force behind their action was compassion.
“In times of crisis and social unrest, compassionate leadership can unify us as human beings, like a glue that binds us together.”
But what is compassion?
What is compassion and how is it different from empathy? The definition of compassion is often confused with that of empathy. Empathy is, in a sense, an automatic mirroring of another’s emotion, like tearing up at a friend’s sadness. Compassion often does involve an empathic response however it is defined as the emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help.
How to become more compassionate
Having a regular routine of mindfulness is one of the best ways for increasing compassion. Mindfulness generally makes people more self-aware. With greater self-awareness, we are more intentional about how we approach an issue and more thoughtful about how we respond to others.
Have more self-compassion: Having genuine compassion for others starts with having compassion for yourself. If you’re overloaded and out of balance, it’s impossible to help others find their balance. Self-compassion includes getting quality sleep and taking breaks during the day. Stop criticizing yourself for what you could have done differently or better. Instead, cultivate self-talk that is positive. Then reframe setbacks as a learning experience. What will you do differently in the future?
Check your intention: Make a habit of checking your intention before you meet others. Put yourself in their shoes. With their reality in mind, ask yourself: How can I best be of benefit to this person?
Adopt a daily compassion practice: Compassion is a trainable skill. Meditation is a great way to do this. Go on to YouTube and type in “compassion meditation” and you’ll find a variety of meditations to choose from.
How compassion can lead to change
Social scientists have found that helping is contagious: acts of generosity and kindness beget more generosity in a chain reaction of goodness.
Our acts of compassion uplift others and make them happy. We may not know it, but by uplifting others we are also helping ourselves; research has shown that happiness spreads and that if the people around us are happy, we, in turn become happier.
We were first-hand witnesses to how compassion mobilized quickly and efficiently in South Africa to get food to people and to help rebuild businesses. It changed a collective mood of despair into one of hope and it is what will drive us to continue to lift up our communities and our people.
Lisa Marie Lawler is a writer, health and wellness advocate, content creator and traveller.