What is Compassion, anyway?

compassionLet’s start off by de-bunking the myths about compassion.  Some of my favourite explanations of compassion go like this – airy fairy, kindness, hippy dippy, love, unicorns and stuff like that, total shite, religious shite…you get the picture.  Actually, compassion is many things including strength, wisdom, understanding, courage, empathy and sympathy and it is motivation.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Compassion recognises that life is really hard and full of pain and suffering.  Crucially compassion also wants to do something about this pain and do what it can to stop it in the future.  Just to get super clear and be official with proper definitions and all, The Compassionate Mind Foundation (leaders in the research and teaching of compassion) tells us compassion is “a sensitivity to suffering in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it.”

Compassion recognises that there is always time and potential for change.  Compassion helps us learn to tolerate difficult parts of ourselves like pain, guilt and shame.  It helps us relate to ourselves in a new and curious way.  This helps us to create very important and helpful new pathways in our brains.  Compassion recognises that you are not the worst thing that you have ever done or the worst thing that has ever been done to you.

So compassion is many things.  And it is in all of us, ready for the taking.  By developing compassionate qualities and skills in our bodies and minds we can change ourselves.

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