If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
What is compassion? What does it mean to you? According to dictionary.com, compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” Note that there are two parts to compassion. The first part, a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow, is as far as most people go when giving compassion for another person’s misfortune. We all suffer at some point in our lives. We lose loved ones, jobs, material possession and even parts of ourselves that we thought were important. It’s really easy to feel sorry for someone’s sad situation. But do we have it in us to want to remove the pain and suffering another individual is feeling?
When I was very young, my parents divorced and there was a great divide in my family. I felt so much grief and abandonment. I suffered greatly and spent a lot of energy feeling sorry for myself. I used to spend hours staring out my bedroom window, crying, and longing for something to bring my family back together. My friends and neighbors all had whole families and I thought that brought them happiness. I thought it would make me happy to have a whole family. What I didn’t recognize was everyone around me had their own problems and suffering, too. Whether they were struggling with weight issues, controlling parents, or whatever their own suffering was, I didn’t have a strong desire to alleviate anyone’s pain but my own.
Which brings us to the second part of being compassionate, alleviating suffering of others. There will always be problems, issues and obstacles in life. If we become discouraged and lose hope, it’s really hard to face our difficulties. As soon as we start to care greatly for the happiness of others, our own sense of well-being becomes important. When we remember that we’re not alone and that every person stuggles with some issue, we gain a new perspective that increases our own determination to overcome obstacles. This understanding allows us to remove fears and insecurities and gives us strength to cope and grow. We can then see that each new issue is simply another valuable opportunity to improve our lives.
One of the reasons that I write this blog is because I see that there are people close to me who are suffering in their current life situation. They are struggling with issues that I used to suffer with: being true to myself instead of complying to other people’s expectations. My compassion and desire to want to help others overcome this struggle has helped me become stronger. My goal is to help myself and my friends and family see that we can all do what we want for a living. I want to be a highly paid artist with the freedom to create when and what I want. I have struggled with that desire and have had to face fear, worry and doubt in order to overcome it. I’ve seen that I’m not alone. By helping others live life fully, I have gained strength to live my own life fully.
So… how can a person develop a truly compassionate attitude? First things first, we need to remove all feelings of hatred and anger. We must cultivate a humble and sincere attitude. Remove personal attachments to an outcome and be concerned about a fair outcome. In my childhood divorce situation, I assumed that if my parents got back together, my suffering would end. That was not a fair outcome. It wasn’t fair to my parents, who were unhappy with each other. They were very mature in this situation in that they did everything they could to provide some relief to my pain as well as their own. Of course, I didn’t recognize that then, but I do see that now. Express your desires, and remain true to your physical and mental needs. Practice compassion by taking a moment to see whether or not your desires and needs are fair to the individuals who would be effected.
This is a good start for now. Become aware of both parts of compassion: recognizing the suffering of others and wanting to alleviate their pain. Notice how this new attitude helps you and others at the same time. If this attitude is second nature to you, I urge you to practice compassion with those who appear to be your enemies. Look beyond your own suffering, remove anger and hatred, create a fair outcome. Then, enjoy peace, contentment and self-confidence in yourself. If this article hasn’t given enough support, read more from The Dalai Lama about practicing compassion.