A while back I was invited to participate in the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion blogging event, #1000Speak. I quickly agreed. I'm a nice person. I believe in showing compassion to those around me. My heart reaches out, yearning for my fellow man to learn to be more kind to each other.
And then reality hit.
I've known about this for a month or two and haven't written a thing. First off, it was way out there in the future and I had more urgent things to do. Second off, I couldn't think of any way to write about compassion that didn't leave me feeling like a hypocrite.
You see, being kind isn't that tough. It's like being polite. It's something I can do without truly feeling it in my heart. But kindness isn't the same thing as compassion, although I believe true compassion does lead to kindness.
Kindness is an act. It's the way we treat someone.
Compassion is a feeling. It's the motivation behind the way we treat someone.
Except when it's not.
You see, I can look kind. Act kind. Do kind. Without feeling compassion. So all that looking, acting, and doing kind is just hollow. But it looks good.
I don't usually do it just to put on a good show, so others will think I'm a good person. "See how kind I am?" But sometimes I do.
I don't always do it unwillingly. "You're making me crazy and I really don't want to have anything more to do with you but I'm sure it's the right thing to do and it's what I should do so I'll grit my teeth and just get it done." But sometimes it's like that.
Sometimes I really struggle with compassion.
I'm really good at feeling compassion for people who are struck with illness or difficulty that was beyond their control - those situations when life just happens. Or when someone else's actions hurt them. I have no trouble feeling compassion for people in those situations.
But when someone is struggling because of their own stupidity or immaturity, it's tougher for me. There's some judging that happens here. I find myself with a bit of a you-got-yourself-into-this-you-earned-it attitude. Definitely not compassion.
And when nature does its damage, destroys a home or ravages a body with disease, my heart aches with compassion for that person. I want to help and I try.
But when that damage interferes with the life I had planned for myself, when it inconveniences me, I'm not as caring. Not as giving with my time. Even though I know the other person is suffering much more than me in that moment, I still find myself throwing a self-pity party. And getting irritated that this person is messing up my life.
Because I think compassion is easier from a distance. Compassion up close can be difficult, especially if it's needed for a long time. If it's an ongoing situation. That shows no signs of ending and which will be a part of my life for an extended period of time. Compassion under those circumstances can be hard.
And this is the part of the post where I expected to spell out all the ways to be compassionate anyway. This is where I planned to set goals to work harder and be better, to look beyond myself.
But that's not what I'm going to do. Because all of a sudden I am feeling compassion. I am feeling compassion for myself. (Which has been an uncommon feeling for me.)
Sometimes we experience compassion burn out. Sometimes we have to stop focusing on others and focus on ourselves a bit. We need to sit down. We need to eat a good meal. We need to get some sleep. And sometimes that means letting our hearts worry about our own hearts instead of everyone else's.
There are many people in my life who are having severe difficulties. I am frequently called on to help them in some way, even if it's just listening for an hour or two while they try to process their thoughts. And I do.
But sometimes it's okay to say I can't. Because I need to have compassion for me, too.