The disconnected self. We all may feel this way, at least on occasion.
The sensation exists that we are beings separated from each other by space, time, or material construction. We will categorize and classify these differences and even exploit them if it suits us. However, as different as we may be, we also cannot deny our connections and similarities.
To truly understand and feel the hurt that we and others experience, we rely on our empathic skills. The word “compassion” itself means having sympathy for the suffering of others. It is no stretch of the imagination to know that people do suffer in the world. There are many kinds of trauma–physical, emotional, and psychological–that so many of us endure.
We have had the pain, terror, and horrors of war for about as long as humans have been around. The natural world itself is full of the struggle to survive under the most basic of circumstances. There is the expression, “It is a dog-eat-dog world out there.” We must understand the hurt, pain and suffering we have before we can try to help make things better.
We are, indeed, fortunate if we have someone with whom we can talk about these matters. For many people who follow certain religions, they turn to church leaders to get them through difficult times, such as when there is a death or serious illness in the family. Laypersons have counselors, mentors, and other healers–trained people who will coach us through hard times. They help us see the possibilities; they listen to our troubles, and help us take the right steps back on the positive side of things.
Compassion is not only a skill of those trained to work in those kinds of situations. It is something any of us may choose to do, because if we are honest with ourselves, we know there is a lot of pain and suffering out there, and we often cannot alleviate the pain alone. It is a positive action to be concerned about doing something to make the pain more bearable.
Some will advise that it is best to not look at the difficulties or look upon a particular horror directly, feeling it is a waste of time or counter-productive. Yet, look at the many appeals for help we see televised or that come to us on the internet these days. They can be rather graphic and show some of the real struggles of the young and old alike. We cannot deny the things that present themselves to us.
Eagerness to go out and work on eliminating them actively calls to each of us in different ways. There are people who see very little benefit in talking the problem over first, or realizing that they are not the first or only people who have suffered in this particular way or with this certain problem. Avoidance and fear do not help, clearly.
However, before we can know how much attention to place or how much work will be involved in maintaining a healthy attitude, we must first really see, know, and understand the extent of the problem, how deep it goes, how long it is been around, etc. In order to know how best to apply our energy or work on some sort of action plan, it is best to have a goal.
The goal of compassion is to alleviate suffering. This basic understanding is what a compassionate person knows from the very beginning. How to go about doing that is something unique to each situation, which is why it pays to look before we leap, so to speak. We may not be equipped to handle every case of suffering that crosses our path in life. We may feel best suited to help where and when we can, knowing that we cannot handle it all, or there are just some circumstances or situations that are beyond our capabilities.
This brings us back around to the concept that we are individuals, all having separate experiences. There can be some rather significant obstacles to overcome, when it comes to helping others, such as time and distance. When we see a situation in some far-off, war-torn land, we might wish we could be there to help in some way to care for the orphans or the sick and injured. More directly, there may be nothing more helpless than the feeling when a loved one is hurt or injured in some place where we cannot reach them or be with them in times of strife.
While it may be true that we all have our own unique perspective on our human lives, together we can create and accomplish great things. Compassion is one act that we can choose to do–one that will help others as we help ourselves to get beyond the pain and negativity that can hold us down. Together we rise, if that is our choice, and we are willing to do the work involved.
This is when we can actively choose to lessen the obstacles of time and space. Realistically, we may not be able to travel at a moment’s notice halfway around the world, but we can hold compassionate attention and cohesive energy to aid persons who need the spiritual support we can provide. We can work on making the steps happen to get there in person while we keep in touch with the suffering that exists.
Nobody says life is easy. It may not lessen the huge problems that negativity brings to the existence of the human struggle, but each little act of compassion and support we give each other sure does knock down the negativity and other obstacles bit by bit. To say we have done our one small part to make things better is something each of us can do–and it is up to us to do it.
Choose and act accordingly–there is great power in that.
Article written by Kathy Custren