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Essay: On Compassion
“The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
We live in a world lacking in compassion. The sad reality of humanity is that the vast majority of people ignore the suffering of others. Perhaps many turn a blind eye for their own survival. Witnessing the suffering of another person can evoke raw emotion of fear or sadness or repulsion. Too often, people are detached or willfully blind.
We often learn compassion only after we have suffered ourselves—perhaps experiencing sickness, accident, illness, job loss, marriage breakdown, death of a loved one, prejudice, discrimination, social scorn, bad luck….
Why is compassion so important to humanity? Without it, we would descend into a state of war. We would continually witness 9/11, the detonating of the Atomic bomb, the wicked deeds of the Holocaust. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes once said, “Life is nasty, brutish, and short.” I tend to agree. He also said that without government, “The natural condition of man is a condition of war. Everyone against everyone else. The Dalai Lama stated it best: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
Based on my observations and own personal life experiences, I am not sure that humankind is hardwired for compassion. I don’t believe the virtue of compassion is innate. It’s not an inherent human attribute. It is my view that compassion must be learned.
*** What is compassion? It has two components. First, compassion means to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and ask yourself the following: What if I were that person? How would I feel? So, compassion means to develop an awareness of the suffering in another person .
Compassion has a second component. Once you have an awareness of the suffering, you must respond appropriately. To do nothing is not compassion. So compassion also means to embrace the “Golden Rule”—treat others as you desire to be treated. “Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” (Confucius) If you witness someone who is in pain, or requires assistance, or asks for help, you must come to their aid, you must lend a hand, you must offer assistance. In some small way, you must help the person alleviate his/her suffering.
And if you are unable to help, you must not make their plight worse.
*** On a more general level, compassion means to have genuine concern for all of humanity , not just your own tribe. It is my view that most people are compassionate to members of their own family, such as spouse, and children, but are blind or indifferent to the suffering of others, such as strangers.
Compassion also means to practise random acts of kindness and expect nothing in return. For example, If you see someone on the street, and that person requests some change, give it to them. Or give a donation to a worthy charity. Or donate your forgotten clothing to Goodwill..
Finally, compassion means to believe in the dignity, respect, equality, justice of everyone. It means to live peacefully and avoid engaging in violent behavior. We can agree to disagree, and still live peacefully. For instance, I am apposed to the wearing of the naqab at citizenship ceremonies in Canada, and have expressed my views to anyone who will listen, but I have no intention of engaging in acts of prejudice or discrimination. If a woman desires to wear the head-to-toe veil, this is fine with me.
*** Continually, I witness the suffering in my city, country, and in other parts of the world. Often when reading the paper, or watching the news, or perusing content on the Internet, I am continually reminded by the reality that the vast majority of humanity is suffering, and that most of us turn a blind eye. These unfortunate souls suffer because of war, poverty, disease, famine, religious extremism, environmental disaster, hatred, and more. Their suffering only ends the moment they take their last breathe. It rarely is extinguished by the compassion of the Super Powers, such as Russia, China, and the United States, who spend more money, time, effort on military hardware to defend the next enemy (real or imagined) than foreign aid to the poorest countries in the Third World.
In my own city, I have witnessed the lack of compassion. For the past four years, I’ve walked the streets of Toronto with my camera, documenting the homeless sprawled out on the sidewalks and poor who beg for a handout. They are completely ignored by 99% of the people— who somehow believe these unfortunate and unlucky souls don’t deserve their support. Sadly, it would seem that most strangers who pass the downtrodden blame the victim. “It is your own fault. You are a lazy $^&& sod who doesn’t deserve my assistance.” I work hard for my money. Why should I share anything with you?”
Over the year, I have witnessed first hand the lack of compassion by our public institutions. For instance, the Catholic Church’s shoddy treatment of homosexuals, wilful blindness to priests who were sexual deviants, opposing those who embrace same-sex marriage for love. The religious fundamentalism of Christians and Islamic extremists who express intolerance to anyone who doesn’t support their own narrow view of morality and faith. During our recent election, I read about and watched on television the indifference of Prime Minister Stephen Harper toward the refugee crisis in Syria. His apathetic response cost him his job. I look back into history, make note of how the Nazis treated the Jews, how an American President made the decision to dropped atomic bombs on innocent people, how Islamic extremists steered planes into the Twin towers, incinerating innocent people.
Most recently, I witnessed the general lack of compassion toward the elderly in our healthcare system. This past March, while mum descended into death at a particular hospital in Toronto, I witnessed first hand the indifference by several of the nurses and a doctor to her suffering. Their conduct was appalling, so shocking—- that I felt compelled to file a complaint against one doctor with the College of Physicians and Surgeons and another against two nurses at the College of Nurses. (I was told that the COPS receives 4,000 complaints a year against doctors.) *** Why is there a lack of compassion in the world? Tribalism, individualism, secularism, religious extremism, social Darwinism, greed, envy, popular culture, prejudice, racism, hatred, revenge, indifference, the capitalist economy contribute to the general lack of compassion.
Some people are narcissistic. In fact, I have met more than a few. According to Psychology Today, “the Lack of empathy is one of the most striking features of people with narcissistic personality disorder. ” The narcissist in blind to the pain he or she inflicts on others. Nor does the narcissist take the time to understand the other person’s perceptions, feelings, view of the world. The narcissist is unable to imagine walking in another person’s shoes. Unfortunately, some people in power have narcissistic personality traits.
Living in a secular society doesn’t help the cause to educate people on compassion. Traditionally, people learned how to be ethical and moral by attending church. Now, the vast majority don’t.
Living in a world focused on success, individualism, material possessions, fame, fortune, me…. doesn’t help the cause.
Living in a world where the corporation focuses on making maximum profit doesn’t help the cause. I read this morning that Telus is cutting 1,500 jobs in Canada to increase dividends for shareholders. My reaction: “Utter greed.” Where is the human touch? The sad reality of the free market, capitalist economy is that the corporation focuses on maximization of profits, too often at the expense of shattering personal lives.
Popular Culture socializes the masses to be self-focused. Purchase yourself a smartphone and take endless selfies, then post them to social media. Popular culture also glorifies violence in video games and blockbuster movies, which desensitizes us to suffering and acts of violence, such as killing.
When people are suffering, perhaps grieving a loss, it is often impossible to feel compassion for others. The person who suffers focuses on fulfilling basic needs, such as survival.
I am not sure we are hardwired for compassion. It must be learned. Unfortunately, many people don’t learn to be compassionate.
How does a person begin to develop compassion? Karen Armstrong explains in her book, “The Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.” We must educate ourselves about what it means to be compassionate. there are many ways, such as studying other religions or reading spiritual wisdom. If you are secular, read about spirituality. Learn what Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama have to say about compassion.
We must develop empathy- –become aware of the suffering in the world. We can Learn by watching film or television or the Web and by reading poetry, novels, newspaper, and magazines.
We must look at our own world. Charity begins at home. How does family nourish you? Is there compassion in the workplace? Are your friends toxic? Do they embrace a similar moral code and compassionate view of humanity?
We must develop compassion for ourselves. Each of us has a dark side. Be kind to yourself. Don’t blame yourself for things you cannot control.
We must become mindful of the suffering in our families, friends, community, country, and the world. In other words, we must become aware of other people’s suffering.
We must realize we don’t know everything, and that our way is not necessarily the best way. Too often, we fail to understand other cultures, other religions, other views and perceptions. Instead we gaze at others who are different through our ethnocentric lens. We too often believe our way of life is superior.
We must take action — help those who are suffering. We must discard the tribalism mentality, discard the ethnocentric view, discard the sense of moral superiority. Instead, we must embrace compassion as the highest of virtues. We must practise Random acts of kindness, offering help to anyone who crosses our path and is suffering.
We must embrace the golden rule -Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you.
We must love your enemies. (Not easy to do.) It’s best to ignore them. Don’t seek to defeat and humiliate them. This will only create hatred and the desire for revenge. Instead we must strive to understand and befriend. Karen Armstrong writes” Only goodness can drive out evil, and only love can overcome hatred.” (page 182) The supreme test of compassion is to love your enemy. “We must learn to see sorrow in our enemies.” (page 188). Jesus preached “Love your neighbor has yourself.” *** How I learned about compassion? My own suffering educated me on compassion, such as job loss, illness, financial problems, marriage breakdown, death of loved ones. Attending church as a boy and young adult also educated me on the importance of compassion.
In recent years, I’ve re-reading the New Testament and many books on Buddhism and spirituality. Recently, I read Karen Armstrong’s splendid book of wisdom—“The Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life”, which has provided both a definition and steps on how to live the compassionate life. Her book ought to be required reading in both the public and Catholic schools.
I also continually educate myself by visiting the http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ website on a regular basis. It’s a website that offers numerous suggestions on how to develop spirituality—quotes, different types of practise, films to see, music to listen to, art to view, books to read.
And like yourselves, I witness to the suffering of humanity. I’m mindful to the suffering in my city. Every time, I stroll with my camera taking street photos, I see the countless homeless on the street, requesting pocket change for a cup of coffee or a meal. Watching the news or reading the paper, I’m aware of the suffering around the world. Poverty, Environmental disaster, Genocide,Terrorism, Famine, Civil War, Collateral damage from drones dropping bombs. As a student of history at university, I read about the horrors of humanity. The world is drowning in suffering. *** Human life without compassion is hell on earth– a state of war . It would seem that compassion doesn’t come easy for many people. It is difficult to be compassionate when you are suffering. It is difficult to be compassionate in a world focused on success, material wealth, fame, fortune, rugged individualism. It is difficult to be in a world ruled too often by “corporations” that has no conscience. It is difficult to be compassionate in a world where popular culture glorifies violence in video games and film. And so, we must continually work at living the compassionate life.
Karen Armstrong reminds us: “To become a compassionate human being is a lifelong project. It is not achieved in an hour or day. It is a struggle that will last until our dying hour. ”
Her best advice on developing compassion: “Look into your own heart, discover what it is that gives you pain, and then refuse, under any circumstances whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else.”
Additional Reading • The Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong • Spiritual Literacy by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat • How to Be Compassionate: A Handbook for Creating inner Peace and a Happier World by his holiness The Dalai Lama
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Home — Essay Samples — Life — Compassion — Compassion Can Change the World
Compassion Can Change The World
- Categories: Compassion Positive Psychology
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Words: 456 |
Published: Sep 1, 2020
Words: 456 | Page: 1 | 3 min read
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- Dalai Lama. (2011). Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World's Religions Can Come Together. Doubleday Religion.
- Davidson, R. J., & McEwen, B. S. (2012). Social influences on neuroplasticity: stress and interventions to promote well-being. Nature neuroscience, 15(5), 689-695.
- Flook, L., Smalley, S. L., Kitil, M. J., Galla, B. M., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., ... & Kasari, C. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26(1), 70-95.
- Germer, C. K. (2009). The mindful path to self-compassion: Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions. Guilford Press.
- Gilbert, P. (2014). The origins and nature of compassion focused therapy. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 53(1), 6-41.
- Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Evans, K. C., Hoge, E. A., Dusek, J. A., Morgan, L., ... & Britton, W. B. (2010). Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdala. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 5(1), 11-17.
- Rizzolatti, G., & Craighero, L. (2004). The mirror-neuron system. Annual review of neuroscience, 27(1), 169-192.
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Essay on Compassion | Meaning, Purpose, Importance of Compassion in Life
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Compassion is the powerful motivating force that is essentially important in our lives. The following essay, written by our experts, sheds light upon the meaning, purpose and importance of having compassion in life This essay is quite helpful for children & students in their school exams, college test, etc
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Essay on Compassion | Meaning, Purpose & Importance of having Compassion in Life
The Compassion is an emotional energy that we feel for someone or something else and which draws us to offer our support. If we have compassion for someone in need, it means that we feel their pain in our own hearts and are motivated to alleviate it in some way.
On a broader scale, compassion is loving kindness. It’s the heartfelt intention to offer hope and support, to feel someone else’s pain as if it is our own and to offer help.
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Compassion vs Empathy:
Empathy can be defined as, “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions.”
While both compassion and empathy are about relating to the feelings of others, empathy is more focused on the other person’s emotions. Compassion expands that focus to include a desire to help. It shows up as wanting to support, to be there for someone in a time of need, and to offer help.
Empathy often causes an emotional resonance within us that motivates us to action, which is an aspect of compassion. However, empathy can be limited by our own feelings and experiences. For example, if someone else is feeling sad, but the only thing you can relate to in that moment is your own sadness, you may feel empathy for them but not be able to experience their sadness fully. This might lead you to try to cheer them up instead of letting them feel what they need to feel in order to heal.
On the other hand, compassion is more about emotional resonance and less about our own emotions. Because of this, it can be a more effective motivator for both giving and receiving help.
Kinds of Compassion
Compassion can be broken down into two categories: familial and altruistic. Familial love is the kind of compassion that comes from our personal family experiences. Whenever we feel love for someone in our family, we are experiencing familial compassion. For example, your parents showed you love and support when you were growing up—those are moments of familial compassion.
Altruistic love is the kind that focuses on loving others without any expectation for reciprocity. It’s the kind of love that you can feel for people you don’t know or have just met. It’s what leads to charity, volunteering, and philanthropy. People who dedicate their lives to helping others are often motivated by altruistic love.
Compassion in our daily Life
Having compassion for ourselves and others is an important part of keeping our hearts open. We all experience challenges in life that can cause us to shut down and close our hearts. When we have compassion for ourselves in these moments, it can prevent us from closing down further.
Compassion is also often necessary when helping others. If we are trying to support a homeless person on the street, for example, it’s much more helpful if we can offer them compassion. If we are judgmental of their situation, if we think that they “should” be doing something about it or that this is “their own fault,” we are not offering effective support. The same can be said for trying to help someone who is grieving, or a person struggling with anxiety.
It’s important to receive compassion as well as offer it. We all need support sometimes, and when we don’t get it, we can feel even worse about ourselves and the situation. If you are going through a tough time, it’s important to receive compassion from others to keep your heart open.
In order to offer compassion, we have to practice awareness of the suffering in our world and take a stand against it. We can’t offer compassion if we don’t know about the problem. In addition, mindful awareness of our own thoughts and feelings is a crucial part of compassion. Without self-awareness we can’t know what others need and we won’t be able to relate to them properly.
Developing Compassion in Life
Compassion can be developed by practicing mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is the practice of keeping our attention on the present moment and noticing how we’re feeling. We can think of this as “taking a moment” to check in with ourselves. Meditation is another way to practice mindfulness.
Compassion can also be encouraged by focusing on people’s beneficial qualities rather than their shortcomings or mistakes. If you focus mainly on the negative qualities of someone who is suffering, it can be harder to feel compassion for them. Another way to develop more compassion is by trying to imagine
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Compassion is essential to keeping our hearts open, and developing more of it will ultimately help us build better relationships with others. When we feel compassion, we feel motivated to help and support others, but it’s important to recognize that compassion is a whole-hearted feeling, not an emotion. Therefore it’s important that we also receive compassion from others, especially when we need it.
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Home / Essay Samples / Life / Emotion / Compassion
Compassion Essay Examples
Personal reflection on compassion analysis.
What I know and I have learned is we need to have compassion. Compassion makes everything fit in place. It makes a harmony of unity among the people making us one in reaching a peaceful world. The world now is so cruel. Leaders are unfair...
Practicing Compassion: Its Role in Everyday Life - Personal Reflection
To be compassionate is more than to just feel sympathy or show concern. To be compassionate is to truly feel deeply about another person feelings and opinions as they experience the ups and downs that come along with us through life. To be compassionate is...
Steps to Become More Compassionate
Compassion is one of the few abilities in life that can create both short – term and long – term joy for you. It involves realizing that we are not the only ones who suffer, and trying to create a better world for other people....
The Power of Compassion and Its Main Aspects
Compassion is the term we use for a complex emotion, that involves empathy, altruism and desire; where empathy is the ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another; altruism is the kind, and selfless behavior; and desire is the strong feeling...
Medicine for Me – the Art of Being a Compassionate Caregiver
Compassion, commitment and collaboration are important competencies that I believe I intrinsically possess, which makes me a strong candidate to read Medicine. My nature of being a caring and principled inquirer, alongside my interest in Human Biology is what initially steered me in this direction....
Love and Compassion as a Cure for Loneliness
Love and compassion are essential in human life, as it is shown everywhere around us, if we take that away, humanity cannot survive without them. Love and compassion are such fundamental qualities, that animals, who have lesser cognitive abilities than us humans, possess. Animals would...
The Importance of the Principles of Determination and Compassion in My Life
Principles are the reasons in which we live our lives. Principles are key elements that can help bring out both growth and development. There are a variety of principles that can bring balance, and great substance. Every individual has some kind of principles that drives...
People Skills and Personal Attributes: the Compassion in Practice and the 6 C’s
I will be explaining the compassion in practice program and the 6 c’s. The compassion in practice was introduced in 2010 after the patients at Winterbourne View and mid Staffordshire hospital were treated badly and inhumanely. The 6 c’s were put in place to provide...
Applications of Matrices in Computer Graphics
Abstract-Column matrices can be used to represent points in 2D or 3D, while matrices of dimension 2×n and 3×n can be used to represent sets of points in 2D or 3D. Matrices allow arbitrary linear transformations to be represented in a consistent format (T(x)=Ax for...
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