I hope my words will resonate with you in a meaningful way.
I have been contemplating the meaning, a tangible definition of compassion over and over for the past 51 days.
The word compassion is a lot like the word, love. We recognize the presence of love and the act of love when we experience it. But the truest definition of love articulated in each of our hearts differs from one another. Like love, compassion is personal. The essence of compassion in our hearts and in our minds is defined by who we are and where we've traveled in life.
For fifty one days, I have attempted to define the essence of compassion with examples that are meaningful to me. And for fifty one days, I have struggled, dissatisfied with the bland, ordinary descriptions and everyday examples I came up with.
For fifty one days, I would stare at my screen through the sterile words I had composed feeling that they were only half true.
For fifty one days, these words stared back at me in defiance as if to say, "Who are YOU to speak of compassion?"
Everything I had written was simply the process of writing down what I suspected people wanted to read. You might expect me to write about how wonderful and generous we are and can be to other countries and peoples. You might expect me to write about service to others and volunteer hours. You might expect me to write about how amazing and beautiful and perfect every single human being on earth is and how you should all rush out and wrap your arms around those in need. You might even expect me to write about how every single human being on earth is equally deserving of compassion. And those things are true enough.
During these awkward struggles with my conscience, I examined everything I knew and believed about compassion and what it means. What exactly is an act of compassion? What does it look like? Feel like? What is not compassion and what is simply an act of charity clothed in a robe of compassion?
Fifty one days came and went. My attempts to compose an authentic, meaningful, purposeful message about #compassion were futile. The day to collectively publish and be a part of an amazing movement, #1000Speak For Compassion had arrived. February 20, 2015. And I had absolutely nothing to share.
I could have written for hours about the charities I've volunteered for and causes I have supported over the past decades. I could go on and on about ALL of the nice things I have done for others. Look how compassionate I am! Look at me! I help those in need! I support those who are less fortunate! I am a good person!
I. Am. COMPASSIONATE.
But to simply GIVE, is not enough.
I have volunteered and given my time and service to others, while my own children sat at home without me. I have given comfort to a child I do not know, and yet I have impatiently scolded my own child for the exact same behavior.
I have looked with eyes of pity upon complete and total strangers who I don't know a thing about. And yet, I have also cast judgmental observations of my own family aloud. How is it that I can so easily and abundantly offer my sympathies to random individuals, yet deprive those very sentiments to the people I love the most?
I volunteer my time and services tirelessly. I give money to charity. I collect jars of peanut butter. I rescue homeless and even disabled pets from impending doom. I collect box tops, soup labels, and printer cartridges. I peddle cookies, jump rope for heart, and race for the cure.
I give to others until sometimes, there's nothing left for those I hold dearest in my heart.
For the past 50 days before today, I have attempted to write about compassion. And each and every time I have tried to write about compassion, I have become paralyzed. Everything I had written felt slightly insincere. And I couldn't seem to understand why. Until today.
February 20, Day 51
On the drive home from the store just a few hours ago, I explained to my twelve year old daughter how I had been struggling with something. I described how I had been trying to write about compassion and participate in a massive movement that went live today. "The more I thought about it, the less certain I became about the true meaning of compassion," I told her. "Could I ask for your help?"
"What does compassion mean to you, Evalynn? What does it truly mean to be compassionate?"
She turned her kind and gentle eyes toward me and softly replied to me.
"I think it means to help others. And to be patient with them. Even when it's really hard to."
At that moment, I had a sense of clarity that brought me true understanding, an understanding of compassion far deeper than I have ever known.
51 days ago, I received a phone call.
My sister is dying. She has permanent, irreversible, and terminal liver disease.
And I am very, very angry. I am angry with her for being sick. My heart is filled with anxiety and grief and resentment. I am wracked with sorrow to the core of my soul. The thought of losing my sister, and my friend, was to admit I would lose a part of my heart that can never be replaced. And I have been silently judging her for her choices every single day.
Evalynn's wisdom and honesty permeated my heart on a level far beyond her years. The simplicity of a child's perception of the world is often overlooked. We simply do not listen. Yet her words were the catalyst that brought clarity and peace to my heart. I couldn't possibly write about compassion while I held on to feelings of anger or resentment.
I think of the people in my life who have forgiven ME when I was least deserving, not because they approved of my actions or behaviors. They offered me the gift of forgiveness out of love for me as a friend and as a human being. Those were acts of true compassion.
Sometimes those who appear most undeserving are in most desperate need of compassion.
"Even when it's really hard to."
Forgive those who have acted in anger toward you. Forgive one another for your disagreements. Forgive your loved ones who choose their own path, whether or not it is a path you would choose for them. Set down the burdens of resentment and bitterness you have carried with you for so long.
Forgive the murderer. The pedophile, and the bigot. Forgive the hypocrite and the ignorant. Every single human being is equally deserving of love and compassion. Offer help. Offer direction. Help.
Let the anger and blame and resentment go. Give the gift of true compassion to
yourself and to others. To simply GIVE, is not enough.
Please follow #1000speak on social media to join the movement and help spreading compassion with the world.
Lucy is a writer, educator, and artist/business owner who lives in the frigid Midwest. Please see About Lucy for more and be sure to follow her lessons shared here and via your favorite social media channels.