Some think compassion is truest when we personally feel the other person's pain. We feel so much, in fact, that we are in pain along with them. It’s as if the mantra for compassion is, “the more you suffer, the more you really care.”
I recently read an article comparing this ideal to being in a boat where you see someone drowning and instead of helping them into the boat, you hop in with them. Now there are two people drowning. Now there are two people in pain. If this is your pattern, perhaps you have noticed when the person overcomes the problem, you find yourself in pain for next person who struggles.
Isn’t this caring?
Is it possible to care and not be in pain over it? I asked a group this question and they said they thought it would be very hard, suggesting that to do so would take great self-control. Others responded by saying they used to feel too much and they’ve become numb as if that were the alternative. I believe there is another way.
When you hurt so much for someone, what is your underlying belief about that person? Consider the following:
- “This is a tragedy; you might be scarred for life.”
- “You should not have to go through this.”
- “You cannot handle going through this.”
- “Deep down I believe you are weak.”
- “You are a victim.”
- “I fear being a victim.”
- “I believe in hurt more than strength.”
Have you noticed that the most inspiring stories are people who go through adversity? So often I’ve heard, “I wouldn’t change it because it’s made me who I am.” Have you yourself become a better or stronger person after a challenge? It is necessary to save others from pain? Does this even help? Would you also save them from their growth?
It is possible to care genuinely without personally being in pain. In fact, I believe this is more helpful because it demonstrates that not being in pain is an option. To do so takes a perspective of strength, resilience and belief in the human spirit. This comes from not believing we need to save people from pain. If we can, great. If not, is must be inevitable for that person to take that path. Do you see tragedy only, or do you believe in hope and healing? Notice the difference of perspective when you consider the following thoughts and beliefs.
- “I’m sorry you have to go through this, and I will stand with you.”
- “I believe you can get through this.”
- “I believe we can get through this together.”
- “This won’t ruin your life.”
- “Nothing can ruin your spirit.”
- “You can be happy again.”
- “You have the strength to survive.”
- “You can gain the wisdom to overcome this.”
- “I know you can learn to heal.”
- “This tragedy hurts, but from it you can grow.”
What do we believe about the people we love? If you believe each person has the potential to heal, you can use this perspective to develop healthy compassion while watching others walk their path.
I suggest we invest belief in hope and resilience. How you see others is a message. The greatest way to gain true belief in healing, strength, and peace, is to find it ourselves. When you know through your own experience that these are attainable, you see hope for others. You develop trust. You become more capable of leading others to healing.
Ruth Fearnow is a spiritual student and a Mental Health Counselor at The Happiness Project in Fort Wayne, Indiana. See more articles at www.calmtohappy.com/blog