We — the human race — are no strangers to suffering. While beauty and pain coexist simultaneously, it's easy to become numb to the suffering that happens around us. To have compassion means to suffer together. It means opening ourselves up to the pain that others are experiencing and feeling it with them. It means getting uncomfortable.
We're born with natural compassion. Over time, we can become calloused to the pain of others. (Especially if we are very aware of suffering.) Becoming a more compassionate person requires balance. With time, practice, and patience we can form a beautiful cycle. Here are our tips for becoming a more compassionate person.
Practise self-compassion. To be more compassionate with others, we have to be more compassionate with ourselves first.
Some examples of practising self-compassion are:
● Taking time for yourself
● Speaking kindly to and about yourself
● Sitting with your feelings and listening to your body
● Forgiving yourself when you mess up
When we show up and extend ourselves compassion, we can show up and extend compassion to others.
Rest and self-care are the first steps to recharging, adding some self-compassion to the mix takes it up another level.
Silence your inner critic. Most of us have harsh inner critics. That little inner voice that doesn’t know how to filter or when to be quiet. If we’re constantly criticising ourselves, it’s easier to criticise others. Learning to silence the inner critic isn’t easy, but it’s worth it for our own health and for the health of others. We can silence our inner critic by identifying critical thoughts, counteracting criticism with kindness, and keeping compassion as the focus. Give it time, put in the work, and you’ll notice old criticisms forming into positive affirmations.
Remind yourself that it could be you. Life is hard and sh*t happens. We can find compassion by remembering that it could be us in a tough spot. Everyone is doing the best that they know at the moment. That can be hard to understand sometimes, especially if the solution is evident. When we meet people where they are at, without criticism and with empathy, there’s the opportunity for that person to be honest, authentic, and feel safe.
Listen. When you don’t know what to say, listen. Sometimes there is nothing to say and the most compassionate action is to listen. When you listen, truly listen. Be there, keeping empathy in the centre. Listening isn’t always easy and if you don’t have the space to be fully present and listen to someone, that is okay. Honour your need for space first and then find time to be there when you have the capacity.
Practise being Present. The more present we become the less preoccupied we are with the anxieties of the future. Practising presence brings us to a place where we can be with people at the moment that we are in. In this space, we can be compassionate and find patience in the notion that all of this is fleeting. Change and growth happen in time, and it looks different for everyone.
Some ways to be present with others:
● Make eye contact
● Become aware of body language
● Avoid looking at your phone or multitasking
● Practise mindfulness
● Pay attention to the person you’re with and have grace for yourself when your
attention wanes. (It happens!)
Help. There are always practical ways to show compassion by helping, and that will look different in every scenario. It could look like:
● Bringing someone a meal
● Doing someone's dishes or cleaning their house
● Running errands for that person
● Volunteering at a local shelter
You can summon your desire to be a more compassionate person by putting yourself in a space where you can help.
There's such a thing as compassion overload. You can be compassionate to others and have boundaries. You can be loving and open and still call out toxic behaviours. You can be kind and stand up for what’s best for you. Being a more compassionate person is a balance.
As you find your balance, may you be full of love and compassion for yourself, then let that
goodness flow out.
Chime in with ways that you practise compassion in the comment section below.
Jade is a writer, potter, and gardener living in a sleepy town in Northern Ontario. They love growing food, creating functional stoneware, and hermiting with a book as much as possible.