I have known for quite some time I need to understand the significance of compassion, but haven’t been able to get over this block of rationalizing down my understanding to simply mean ‘feeling sorry for someone and then helping them out if possible’. I just couldn’t see how to herald a virtue that seemed so simple and altruistically lackluster. I mean, I can definitely appreciate compassion in this rationalized frame, but I just couldn’t seem to bump it up high enough on my radar to passionately study it. The recognition was there, but the zealously-enthusiastic-must-share-with-the-world kind of feeling was not at all present…
See, it all started when I heard Brene Brown talk about leading a more wholehearted life, specifically by nurturing courage, compassion and connection. She says about these, “Courageous people have the courage to be imperfect. They have the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others. They have connection as a result of authenticity.”
It was about a year ago I read this and made a mental note to someday figure out what the heck she meant by this. As it turns out, a few months ago I started making an inkling of progress in my lack of understanding. It was actually the December Visiting Teaching message that got me– focusing primarily on compassion, this understandably struck a cord in me; and curious, I perked up to read the message more thoroughly. After this this reeled me in, it’s like the Lord took my receptivity and starting tossing down more personalized clues, specific to my quaint comprehension. It would be a book, a life experience, a quote, or a work of art, etc.. Often spaced weeks apart, ever so slowly my knowledge of the subject began to grow.
The biggey experience that took place that same month is forever engrained…possibly scarred…into my memory.
*Cue Christmas holiday journal…
“After connecting the various dots on the importance of compassion, I feel a somewhat confusing urge to grasp why it is so remarkable. Sure I get that we want people to be nice to each other and try and feel where they are coming from, la la la, but I want to burn with the conviction of compassion! Yet right now I feel like the people I read about just ‘get it’…and honestly, I don’t. All I have been feeling is bewildered curiosity for the high priority these incredible people put on compassion.
So, I asked God to help me. Sometimes I get a little nervous for God to teach me things…because it often turns into an upheaval of trials and all sorts of disarray. But I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere with what I had going–
My heart needed more to sit on. Which meant I needed a story to learn from, because that is how I learn best. Well, needless to say I got a story…a starkly vivid one I won’t be forgetting it any time soon. I say vivid because it happened the very next day, right after I asked God.
Our flight was scheduled to leave Kansas City at 5:55am, and we live 3.5 hours from the airport in the thick of the forest-so we figured leaving by midnight would give us ample time. With a solid hour of sleep under our belts, we flopped out of bed and with a guzzled energy drink or two for Shmike (our diligent driver), we were on our way! Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go! Hill after windy hill, suddenly, BAM! Breaks pumping> Tires screeching> Horn honking> Windshield slamming> Deer flying<<<.
We hit that thing hard. Nothing we could have done to avoid it. Poor deer…and uh oh–poor car!!! Needing some serious work on the front, somehow we were able to continue driving alright. Phewf…not stranded in the middle of the woods.
Drive on driver!
A half hour later, red and blue lights illuminate our visual. Yep… Going 60 in a 45. (In our defense, the road was a long off-ramp to the other highway–one of those tricky ones you can’t believe you get a ticket from=not our fauuult). But guess what-the officer gave us a warning! PHEWF*
Hit a deer. Pulled over.
Drive on driver!
Then- BUMP BUMP. Yeah well we hit the possum of all possums. A really big possum. I’m telling you-these roads are insane and you can’t avoid it. But somehow our car’s axis was still aligned.
Pretty fun right? Well this is just the precursor…
By this time we were cutting it pretty close on time. We hastily rushed to the park-and-fly to catch the airport shuttle. We made it just in time as they were loading up to head out…WHEW- pEErfect! We unloaded our luggage and the driver hoisted it in the back as Shmike speedily unclasped the car seat (it’s a beast-especially in the dark). In those 15 seconds of him pulling it out of the car, this annoyed driver told us he must depart and he had to leave us. In a moment he unloaded our luggage as we literally stood there /with the car seat/, ready to step onto the shuttle. We told him we were ready to go with him and he didn’t need to wait for us. No no-he said he needed to leave right then and our luggage was already off. We said pleeease. We said pretty please. By then he was waiving us off as he walked to his door. Well the way we were being treated kind of lit Shmike on fire…”Then GO!” He heftily scoffed at him as he was walking away. Who knew the driver had time to turn on his heels and come at us with ample swearing and vengeful shouting. I *barely* bypassed his rudeness and courteously asked one more time. No way- he was out of there. He left us, baby in arms, whistling winter winds, right there> on the curb, in the dark. Well we had no other choice, being so short on time we had to park directly at the airport. We went from parking for 3$ a day to $22 a day. Even then time was fading fast. Jiggling poor Murphy, we sprinted to check our bags, only to see the ridiculous number of people in line. There was no way! We would be in line for at least an hour, and our flight was leaving in a half hour! We were frantic and at the end of our rope. Then– out of the blue an attendant asked if we were trying to make our flight. Um, when does that ever happen?? She must have noticed our tired and forlorn faces…yikes we must have looked pretty bad. Definitely perspiring profusely.
Next thing that happened, and to the dismay of the overloaded attendants, she paused an entire line for us. She then booted a slow typing coworker and started working serious magic. First she changed the flight to leave 10 minutes later than scheduled, even though her neighboring coworker told her it was impossible. Then she somehow checked our bags even though the system told her otherwise. After that, she told us to run…Get in front of everyone else for security with the excuse of our plane leaving. As we gratefully rushed away, the line that had swelled behind us was displaying serious angst. I worried about the blowback she would have to hear for the next hour from customers, let alone complaints from the other attendants who she stepped over.
We got on our flight at 5:55. Talk about the most stressful tender mercy from on high!
Even though I should have been sleeping, the adrenaline was still pumping and all I could do was sit there in reverie. Then suddenly, in that stiff upright chair– it hit me-I had just been shown firsthand the extremes of compassion! The Lord gave my palette a satiating understanding of what I desired. He showed me what it is like to feel simple compassion, zero compassion, and deep compassion.
We could have easily jacked up our car. <Deer & Possum both!
We could have easily gotten a ticket.
We could have easily hopped on that shuttle.
We could have easily been left to wrangle another flight.
This morning could have gone very very differently.
Compassion, and the lack of compassion can completely make or break a situation, and you never know how your willingness to help someone will affect them.
After this escapade, we desired to be better people–like our attendant. She empathized with us and went out of her way to help. Now likewise, we desire to go out of our way…it’s, contagious or something.”
Since that occurrence, I have been continually gathering tidbits of resonating material, but it wasn’t until I was at the gym a few days ago that the passion was truly ignited to write this.
I was on the elliptical, trying to glide back and forth smooth enough for my eyes to easily transition from one line of text to the next. Having missed a few days of uplifting reading, I figured this was a good a time as any to edify my little spirit. Well I happened across the Bible story of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-15) and how Christ “had compassion on her” (verse 13).
As her son had just passed away, her grief must have been very fresh as she only had a very short time to process the news of his death and all other burial details that came with it–as was tradition to bury the dead within a few hours of passing away. This woman’s predicament may have been hard indeed, having lost her
husband and then her only son. Beyond the heartache, this also meant there was no male to take care of her. With tender words, Christ then says to her, “weep not”, as if to say she wouldn’t be mourning much longer. Christ then approached where the dead man lay, touched the bier and commanded, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise” (verse 14). Right then, the woman’s son arose from the dead, spoke, and was “delievered” to his mother (verse 15). Compassion is what spurred this miracle. Is it possible for compassion to prompt miracles in our own lives as well?
I love how Heather Farrell relates in her book Walking with the Women in the New Testament, she says “…compassion is not the same thing as pity, sympathy, or empathy. It seems that one of the big differences is that while pity and empathy are things that you feel, compassion is something that you do. Compassion in the scriptures is often linked to the word mercy and is used to describe the motivation behind great acts of charity and love, like the Atonement. In fact, the outward expression of charity is compassion. Christ often says that His “bowels are filled with compassion” toward God’s children. The word bowels in the original New Testament Greek is splágxnon and refers to organs of the body like the heart, lungs, intestines, and womb. All these are parts of the body that swell and then must expel something to keep functioning properly. So when Christ says that His bowels are filled or moved with compassion, He is saying that His great love for God’s children compels Him to bless them…
Even though our grief may seem unbearable, Christ has been victorious over death. And there is nothing that can change that.”
This story inspires me to ‘weep not’ in my own angst, for I can trust in the compassion of Jesus Christ and his boundless love. He cares, and like the widow, we do not have to mourn for long if we can but let him into our lives. Thomas S Monson said, “The Savior has always shown unlimited capacity for compassion. …Let us open the door of our hearts, that He—the living example of true compassion—may enter.
As compassion is a trait of God, we must merge this divine with our humanity by recognizing our equality as children of God. Each of us shares mortality together, with the same emotions-fear is fear and love is love, no matter the individual. As American Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron states in her book The Places That Scare You, “When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience our fear of pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us….In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience—our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
It began with Adam and Eve choosing joy and sorrow- the dark and the light. By recognizing that each of us has light and darkness we all are working with, we’re able to come together in the midst of anguish in loving-kindness with each other as well as ourselves. This is compassion.
In the scriptures, compassion means literally ‘to suffer with.’ As there is truth everywhere, I enjoy overlapping truths from other religions– and when it comes to compassion, Buddhism harmoniously shares such veracity:
In The Essence of the Heart Sutra, the Dalai Lama writes, “According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and loving-kindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is loving-kindness).”
Genuine compassion is about empowering others, helping them unlock strength and courage from within their lives in order to overcome their problems. –Buddhist teaching
In the original Sanskrit Buddhist texts, the concept of compassion is described by the words maître and anukampa. Maitri indicates a sense of fellowship with others; anukampa describes a deep empathy that arises in the encounter with suffering and which gives rise to action. Buddhist compassion could be succinctly described then as the desire to relieve suffering and to give joy, which is beautifully similar to LDS teachings.
True compassion is rooted in respect for the inherent divinity of life–our own and others’–and a desire to see that divinity triumph.
Going back to what Brene Brown says about becoming wholehearted through courage compassion and connection, I find it interesting that by singling out compassion, courage and connection are still ever present, for they cannot be disconnected. It takes courage to be compassionate, and the result of compassion is connection. “That rare mix of courage and compassion is the balm that brings global healing.”
We can individually enable global healing and the triumph of divinity through practicing the art of compassion!
CCC ~ Courage, Compassion and Connection.
Its funny, once I planted the CCC question into my heart, more CCC’s kept popping up to create and complete an entire ‘triple C equation’…
1. “We know that sometimes it can be difficult to keep our heads above water. In fact, in our world of change, challenges, and checklists, sometimes it can seem nearly impossible to avoid feeling overwhelmed by emotions of suffering and sorrow.” https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/10/happiness-your-heritage?lang=eng
2. “In the work of salvation, there is no room for comparison, criticism, or condemnation”. (2015 October General Conference, Here to Serve a Righteous Cause – By Carol F. McConkie)
3. “Wholehearted living is about cultivating courage, compassion, and connection” (Daring Greatly – By Brene Brown)
THE TRIPLE C EQUATION
In a world of CHANGE, CHALLENGES AND CHECKLISTS, the way to avoid CRITICISM, COMPARISON AND CONDEMNATION is to CULTIVATE for ourselves COURAGE, COMPASSION AND CONNECTION.
So how do I be compassionate?
President Monson taught that “you are … surrounded by opportunities for service. … Often small acts of service are all that is required to lift and bless another.” Okay, now consider what President Uchtdorf tells us, “Look around you. There at sacrament meeting is a young mother with several children—offer to sit with her and help. There in your neighborhood is a young man who seems discouraged—tell him you enjoy being in his presence, that you feel his goodness. True words of encouragement require only a loving and caring heart but may have an eternal impact on the life of those around you.
“You…render compassionate service to others for reasons that supersede desires for personal benefits. In this you emulate the Savior, who, though a king, did not seek position, nor was He concerned about whether others noticed Him. He did not bother to compete with others. His thoughts were always tuned to help others. He taught, healed, conversed, and listened to others. He knew that greatness had little to do with outward signs of prosperity or position. He taught and lived by this doctrine: ‘He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.’” (Oct. 2008 General Conference – Happiness, Your Heritage) <See Help Meet
It’s in the small courageous actions.
You want to know how I was compassionate yesterday? This was a really scary thing for me– I saved the hornet trapped in our home instead of killing it! #bravery #compassionatetriumph
Overall though, I think the two most important things compassion can offer is this:
-To prepare us to go beyond orthodox truth and receive the RAW fundamental truth (Do you know what this truth is??),
-And help us activate the RAW power of grace.
COMPASSION IS THE WAY THROUGH WHICH DIVINITY TRIUMPHS!
Soto Zen teacher Reb Anderson puts it beautifully in his book Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts when he says, “We realize the intimate connection between the conventional truth and the ultimate truth through the practice of compassion. It is through compassion that we become thoroughly grounded in the conventional truth and thus prepared to receive the ultimate truth. Compassion brings great warmth and kindness to both perspectives. It helps us to be flexible in our interpretation of the truth, and teaches us to give and receive help in practicing the precepts.”
Caroline Myss further adds to this by stating, “I think something greater than compassion…is at work, something beyond the motivation of the strong to help the weak or the wealthy to help the poor. I think it is the invisible power of grace, moving between the open hearts of the giver and the receiver. The action itself, the lifting of a heavy piece of luggage or the drink of water offered to the thirsty man, may be small. But the energy that is channeled through that action is the high-voltage current of grace. It contains the power to renew someone’s faith in himself.
“Whether making a cup of tea, cleaning an apartment, or sitting up all night with someone waiting for a medical diagnosis, every one of these experiences is an invisible act of power, a cleverly disguised means through which the vital energy of grace is channeled into someone’s life.”
Let compassion in to your life and watch the triumph of divinity!
A Few of the Many Benefits:
-DEEP MENTAL PURIFICATION
-EMPOWER AND COMMUNICATES A NON-CONCEPTUAL WISDOM
-RADIATES THE MIND’S DEEPEST UNCONDITIONED NATURE
-EMPOWERS ALL POSITIVE STATES OF MIND
-AWAKES OUR FULLEST HUMAN POTENTIAL
-NOURISHMENT FOR PHYSICAL, MENTAL, EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL HEALTH
In this world of CHANGE, CHALLENGES AND CHECKLISTS, the way to avoid CRITICISM, COMPARISON AND CONDEMNATION is to CULTIVATE for ourselves COURAGE, COMPASSION AND CONNECTION.
- Compassion takes us from CONVENTIONAL TRUTH to ULTIMATE TRUTH.
- A SMALL ACT OF COMPASSION CARRIES WITHIN IT THE HIGH-VOLTAGE CURRANT AND VITAL ENERGY OF GRACE
- “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”
- TRUE COMPASSION HAS NO EXPECTATION OF THANK-YOUS OR REWARDS.
- True compassion is necessarily based on cherishing others.