“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” – Dalai Lama
Sometimes, we forget that we are human. While striving for self-improvement, we overlook the fact that we are not machines able to be fixed, we are organic. Like flowers, we need water, sunlight and a little support now and again. However, unlike flowers, in order to flourish we require nourishment from one another: to be heard and understood without judgement.
Compassion, which is our ability to empathize with the suffering and joy of others, is the rain and sunshine of humanity. Empathy, rather than sympathy, allows us to understand one another on the same level. This can only be done by acknowledging our own struggle. By doing so, we nourishes our waning stems while helping each other blossom.
Metaphors aside, by simply listening and attempting to understand one another without judgment, we can heal and feel connected through our humility.
No One Is Perfect
The following quotes were chosen because of the authenticity and simplicity of their message. Not one of the individuals featured here is without flaw, which is the point of the whole message. When we hear about love, acceptance or anything that can be perceived as spiritual or religious, our defenses are thrown up. “Well how do they know?!” “How self important!” “They say that but did X, Y and Z!”
Attempting to understand the suffering of others does not make us holy, nor does it place us higher on the totem pole than anyone else. Rather, it emphasizes the humanity of both parties by accepting the frailty of our condition. So much effort is placed into appearances and reputation that we gloss over the fact that we’re flawed. Furthermore, little emphasis is placed on the fact that it’s perfectly acceptable to be this way. Without flaw, there is no room for growth.
Here are 10 Lessons on Empathy that hopefully inspire us to choose compassion over judgement.
1). “Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?” – Marcus Aurelius
2). “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness are the important things and should be part of our daily lives.” – Dalai Lama
3). “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all . . . living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.” -Thomas Merton
4). “A human being is part of the whole called by us ‘universe’ – a part limited in time and space. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
5). “Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.” – Hubert H. Humphrey
6). “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
7). By compassion we make others’ misery our own, and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also” – Thomas Browne, Sr.
8). “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care” – Theodore Roosevelt
9). “I call him religious who understands the suffering of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
10). “The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.” – Louis C.K.
Our lives are as complex as our individual realities. While it’s difficult to fully understand the experiences of others, taking the initiative is a gift in itself. Similarly, the words we use can either foster growth or create a brushfire. When dealing with friends, family or coworkers (especially the difficult and unkind ones) consider your similarities before rushing to judgement.
Remember, the point of compassion is not to gain favor with karma, God or whatever universal power we endorse, it’s to be human. When we act as a guru, we assume we know better. However, each of us has an answer to life’s problems and many of them will conflict with the 7 billion others on this planet. Instead of asking which is right or wrong, consider which is most pragmatic for our individual needs.
Variety is the spice of life, but sometimes it can become overpowering. Emphasizing kindness and compassion can help us savor the variety of flavors of life while enriching our own experience.