“Kindness is a language the blind can see and the deaf can hear.” – African proverb
There are many among us who have tendencies of looking at others negatively merely because they look different and have value-sets that are not the same as ours. There are varied reasons for such an attitude, but what we often overlook is the role diversity plays in making life meaningful and enjoyable. We are all different and yet very similar. We have different talents, interests and passions, and yet when we allow them to individually and collectively flourish they give a beautiful, peaceful, fulfilling and harmonious life. That is what compassion is all about.
Too often, we equate compassion to showing an appreciation of the suffering of others. That is a start. Beneath that layer, real compassion rests on appreciating the diverse value system and looks of others. It involves being freed from judgemental comparisons. You should be able to see yourself as the ‘different’ who needs to be understood by others. What would your approach be? It is more likely to be an engagement to create understanding. A little reflection about ourselves always tells us that everyone in the world has issues. We may never be able to know the depths of their struggles, but when we remember that we desire to be loved and accepted as we are, then we are mandated to be kind, courteous and generous to others. That attitude sums up compassion.
Life is such that we need to relate to one another. The real challenge then rests on how we do that. It is said: “It’s not about what you do in life, but how you do it that matters”. It really does not matter that you relate to a thousand people. What matters is the depth of engagement you have with each of them. We mostly argue that life is not as ideal as we would love for it to be. But this is mainly because many of us do not show a genuine interest in others – a condition that stems from our own inability to be genuinely interested in ourselves.
Many of us are conflicted within. We have no deep connection with ourselves, and this makes it almost impossible to connect deeply with others. If we could devote about the same amount of energy we pour into our work into how we relate with ourselves, life would be exceedingly more wonderful than it presently is. When you personally experience hunger, it becomes easier it is to understand the plight of others when they are hungry – and why the world needs to work harder at eliminating hunger. Self-compassion enables you to accept others for who they are and where they are, regarding the development of their potential and their appreciation of life.
It is said that we cannot consciously design every experience we desire; neither can we particularly choose whom we want to relate to. Living is such that we will have experiences we did not design, and meet people from all walks of life. What is important, then, is how we respond to every experience. Do we delve in like an adventurer or do we act as spectators? Sadly, many of us are spectators. We do not want to have any relationship with our experiences. We have an attitude of not seeking understanding; neither do we want to work on the challenges around us, except when it is packaged as employment and there is an attached remuneration.
This attitude stems more from an anti-compassion stance than anything else. And in this situation, compassion is not just for others but also for one’s self. It is no secret that many of us do not have enough compassion for ourselves. We are quick to punish our own selves in instances where we perceive we have not done well or failed. Our store of emotional resources for ourselves is so scanty we have none left for any other person. As the saying goes, “If we think harshly about ourselves, we will project that onto other people. The judgments we pass on other people are usually the judgments we have about ourselves”. Sadly, many of us do not realise when we are projecting ourselves onto others. We assume we are merely criticicing them.
Our fathers philosophised that when you point one finger at another, the rest point back at you. Let us not be too quick to point out the flaws of others. Instead, let us learn to engage in deep conversations with them. To do that, we need to converse with ourselves. We need to practice awareness of our thoughts and the effects they have on our opinions. We need to appreciate our emotions and how they drive our decisions, so as to be able to be compassionate to ourselves and then to others.
Kodwo Brumpon is a management consultant and a life coach who inspires individuals, groups and corporate bodies to think and feel that which is true, and helps them to positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions. Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]