Okay! This is a fun one for me. I love showing people how to practice compassion in everyday life. It’s not something that came naturally to me. It’s something I had to learn to do. I was so wrapped up in my own life that I didn’t take the time to acknowledge others very much. It was actually when I first starting having real problems because of my untreated treated bipolar disorder that I started really learning about demonstrating compassion. I was sitting there with all of these other people that had similar problems to mine and listening to their stories and I realized that that is one of the greatest gifts that you can give someone in this day and age. Just listening to someone’s story is great act of everyday compassion because we are so busy today that we don’t have time to listen to each other. Once I noticed it, it seemed like an obvious and easy act of compassion for me. There are many other things that we can do to demonstrate compassion in our everyday lives.
1. Practice Random Acts of Kindness
This was another obvious one for me. Listening to someone’s story can definitely be a random act of kindness. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in line at the grocery store when someone just started telling me something that they really needed to get off of their chest. My husband and I say I have Dear Abby Syndrome. If I am not rushing off somewhere, I will usually take the time to listen to what they need to tell me and I try to respond to them as warmly as I can. There are innumerable other ways to practice random acts of kindness though. You can volunteer your time to help someone with a project. You can let someone in front of you in line at the grocery store. There’s the old stand by of carrying an elderly person’s groceries or helping an elderly person cross the street but you get what I mean. Anything that you can think of that would help someone else is usually a great idea.
In our super busy world it is really easy to lose track of those we care about. Friendships can fall by the wayside and family members can be left without us while we try to get through day to day life. Take a second to text “I love you!” to your spouse. My husband and I text each other back and forth every day with little I love yous and cute little smooch smiley faces and stuff. Goofy and geeky….um, totally… but we both know that we are there for each other each and every day. Drop a note in a lunch or laptop bag. If you don’t have the time for a long phone call with a friend, call just to say “Hi. Let’s get together for a coffee or lunch.”. The next time you see someone, make an effort to ask how they are doing. I always do this with everyone I meet. Sometimes I just get “Fine” but sometimes I get a chance to listen to what someone needs to share and I like being there for them. It can be hard to stay in touch and up to date with everyone, but doing little things will let them know you still think of them and care about them.
3. Recognize that we are all the same
This is a big one. In our world we seem to be stuck on all of the things that make us different from each other instead of finding a commonality that is true for all of us. By stepping back and seeing that we are all just trying to get by in this world and that we are all in need of love, we can realize just how much we have in common. Seeing that we are all ultimately the same (and in the same boat) helps us to be kinder and gentler to those that are having it harder than we are. One of the ways that I do this is when I am confronted with a homeless person or panhandler. Many judge these people without even thinking about it, calling them lazy, crazy, etc. I always have a couple of bucks that I can give to help them out and I always try to listen when they try to talk to me. Many of their stories are just heartbreaking. Many have a mental illness and can’t function at a level that allows them to live more comfortably and then there are those that had something terrible happen to them and through no true fault of their own (other than maybe making a bad choice or two – just like we have) they ended up losing everything. Instead of judging them on what they haven’t accomplished or on how they are living so much more differently than we would, we can look at them and experience true compassion for their situation.
4. Take time to understand those who have treated you badly
Am I saying justify what they have done? No way. Am I saying surrender a difference of opinion or give up something that you care about? Again…nope. But if you can step away from someone who you are disagreeing with or someone who is treating you badly and walk away and then you take the time to look at it from their point of view , you may come to understand their opinions or why they are treating you that way. Look at points that they were making and see if you can come to understand their opinion. Later on, you can address the issue with them from a much calmer perspective and let them know that you have taken the time to understand what they were saying. Even if you can’t come to an agreement, you can at least maintain a level of respect for each others ideas and opinions.
If someone is treating you badly, it can be that they are just having a bad day and were too consumed by what they were dealing with to deal effectively (or compassionately) with others. Maybe they got a ticket. Maybe they are overwhelmed with all of the things they have to do. Maybe that is the only way they know to get somebody to do something that they need done. Am I condoning their behavior or saying let them treat you badly? Absolutely not. But if you look at what they are dealing with or what they have had to deal with in the past, you may come to understand why they are treating you this way. This is something I have had to do myself. My father was a horrible alcoholic and my childhood was something of a mess. I spent a lot of my time being angry about the things I had to deal with as a child. Once I decided that I didn’t want to be angry anymore, I started looking at my father’s life and what he had to deal with that made him that way. He had a fairly terrible childhood thanks to his father so that was the only way he knew how to deal with the world. Does that mean that what he did and how he behaved was okay? Not in the least. But I could at least understand what had happened to make him that way and it allowed me to be more compassionate in my dealings with him because I could see why his point of view of the world was more than slightly skewed.
5. Take the time to recognize those that help you everyday
This one should be pretty easy for everyone to do everyday. Thank your teller at the grocery store or bank. Ask them how they are doing. If you supervise other employees, make sure you express your gratitude at what they do to aid you in running your group, department, etc. Thank your kids for doing their chores to help keep the house clean. Speaking of that, thank your spouse for the myriad things they do for you. This is something that has become second nature for me. I thank everyone I come into contact with during the day. And I try to remember to thank my husband as often as I can for his support and the things he does everyday to help us keep things moving in a positive direction. So many people don’t take the time to do this and I have noticed that when I do, I get a positive reaction every time. They appreciate that they are not just part of the scenery for me. It’s so easy and only takes a couple of seconds to do but it makes a tremendous difference to those that you take the time to appreciate.
Compassion is something that is so easy for us to practice and yet there are many who do not take the time to do this. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do something kind for someone else, to consider someone’s opinion on a matter or to express gratitude to those that help us get through our day. There are so many benefits to not only those that we are compassionate to but to ourselves as well. We feel better about ourselves when we are kind to others. It can improve our mood to see how our kindness affects others. Kindness also spreads. If you show compassion to others they are more likely to be compassionate toward the people they come into contact with during their day. Demonstrating compassion is something I actually take pretty seriously because I feel it is something that we are short of in this world. It is a beautiful feeling and one that should be shared as often as possible. How do you show compassion in your everyday life?
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