February Musings

Wisdom and Compassion

The word compassion, might be one of those words or a part of a catch phrase, frequently tossed around these days. Although, it might be used without understanding the whole value it holds in our everyday existence. For some, compassion can look scary, while it can be comforting to others. Hopefully it is something we all experience or have experienced in our lifetime.

It may possibly be our human construct of black and white thinking, that limits our ability to fully embrace compassion. This black and white view, most common around us, can alter the full benefit of compassion and can even leave some feeling taken advantage of. Furthermore, some believe compassion is an all or nothing act, making this exhausting view of compassion to seem unattainable. This ultimately limits the full benefit of compassion. If we first have a healthy relationship with compassion we are better able to take action to empower or lift others.

As outcasts, experiencing compassion be limited, if at all. As humans if we do not understand something or someone, our first reflex is to remove the cause of discomfort. While some spiritual practices, teach us to sit with the discomfort gaining understanding of the source, not all spiritual practices have this. The practice is to not allow discomfort to control our thoughts and actions. We begin to live in fear, when we allow our thoughts to control us. By sitting with the discomfort we can let go of thinking, we do not become our thoughts. Our thoughts are part of our egos which, does not include compassion. In addition if we are constantly thinking and trying to think our way through a discomfort, we can get lost too far away from our current moment. This is the mindful look at compassion because, it is not possible to think about how a discomfort will be in ten minutes, we are not there. In ten minutes the discomfort may have subsided. Acting with compassion allows us to care for our current needs first, then to plan as best we can for the future. If we are already calm, then we carry calm into the next moment. This is a part of compassion for oneself.

To help with understanding compassion, it is also necessary to look at wisdom. Few people want to see someone else hurt, neglected or in some way experiencing pain. Again, nobody wants to experience discomfort and studies show, our brain responds with empathy when we see someone else experiencing discomfort.

It is possible to experience offering so much compassion, that it becomes hard to be compassionate. Compassion fatigue is a real thing. The aspect wisdom offers is what balances compassion. Wisdom balances compassion, because it helps us to understand how we can be of assistance, while sustaining our own existence in compassion or returning to self compassion quicker. This enables us to continue offering compassion, in more situations and to more people. Although we would like to think we could give of ourselves until we could not any longer, in truth we cannot do that long term. Even Saint Mother Teresa, who worked tirelessly with outcasts in Calcutta, was known to take days off and take time to rest and for personal care. She practically embodied the example of compassion in action, by also remembering herself.

It is wisdom that also reminds us, the most important person that deserves compassion, is ourselves. It is when we are able to show ourselves compassion, that we are able to offer the most care for others. This is when we love our neighbors as ourself.

Looking for how to add wisdom before moving into action, is a way of offering sustainable compassion. I once had a spiritual mentor who said to ask these questions before jumping into action; Can it or does it harm me or anyone else? Are the actions I am taking for my benefit, for someone else or the person in need? Though these can offer somewhat vague answers, only we know what will work best for ourselves.

The wisdom in compassion is being able to tell if the compassion offered is helping someone to empower themselves. If compassion becomes doing it all for someone else or taking on all their pain, then nobody gains any wisdom in life. The best compassion is to meet someone where they are, to guide others while living our own life and remembering self compassion.

It is the generosity of compassion, that feeds souls. That the most subtle kind of compassion, of kindness or a warm smile, can reach past our realm of comprehension. There is a lot of beauty in compassion and even more beauty when compassion also holds the balance of wisdom and the awareness of spreading compassion in all directions. This wise compassion moves, both inward and outward.

*Image and quote of Saint Mother Teresa obtained and used, from the public domain.

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