“Compassion literally means ‘to suffer with,’ which implies a basic mutuality in the experience of suffering. The emotion of compassion springs from the recognition that the human experience is imperfect.” -Kristin Neff
I don’t know anyone who wants to suffer. But the plain truth is that suffering is an element of every person’s life. I don’t know anyone who is immune to some kind of suffering, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual and everything in between. For some reason though I think that many of us get caught up in this idea that we are not the “ones” who are suffering. That we have it all together. That we are better than or more perfect than others who just happen to be suffering.
That’s crap. The beauty of the above statement from Kristin Neff’s book, Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind is that those of us who are compassionate people are aware that this life isn’t perfect on any level. We are conscious of the fact that all of humanity is fallible in many ways, no matter how smart we may think we are.
I think most people get this. But at the same time, we are out to prove that we make the smart choices and that we always do the right things. For example, I have recently confessed several mistakes to my mom, for which she looks at me with this puzzled, disappointed look, shakes her head and says,
I thought you would have known better. I thought you were smarter than that. I had no idea you were so confused.
These days I’m usually able to let comments like these go fairly quickly. But they still hurt. They remind me of my imperfection, and that people “like me” aren’t allowed to make mistakes…specifically “stupid mistakes.”
But what does compassion look like in these instances??
Having compassion means that we share on every level of our suffering…or if you don’t like the word “suffering,” it means that we share and connect on every level of our imperfection. It’s not feeling sorry for another person or saying, oh I would have never made that choice; and it sure as hell isn’t telling someone that they had no idea how confused you were. It’s spending time with someone in their pain, long enough and deep enough for it to touch something within you. It’s about meeting vulnerability with more vulnerability. It’s about showing your heart, not your intellect to another person who is hurting.
With compassion, we have to let go of our egos and let go of everything that we think we should be…and just be.