March 14, 2019
Compassion - Suffering together.
When unexpected trials strike or when we enter a difficult season in life it is easy for us to feel isolated and alone. It’s as though we forget that we have friends, family, resources available to me to help us make it through the struggle.
I don’t know for sure whether this is the case with you but this tendency is something I’ve observed in many people from various backgrounds and cultures in my work. Especially for those of us whose work is to offer help and assistance to those in need, it is not uncommon for us to forget ourselves while we’re about the business of serving others around us.
Enter compassion. Compassion is not pity. Compassion is not sympathy. Compassion means to enter into one another's suffering. Compassion drives much of the work that I do. And yet, it is so easy to become overloaded and tired from the magnitude of the suffering we observe.
This is where self-compassion becomes essential. Christine Neff is a professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin. And she has written and taught extensively about the idea and benefits of self compassion. Here’s what she has to say,
“Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”I know that on any given day some of us are experiencing exhaustion, personal trials, grief, loss, or simply the day-to-day mistakes that can elicit negative response toward ourselves. “Just suck it up.” “You don’t have time to feel this way.” “You’re better than that.” These kinds of responses don’t elicit compassion toward ourselves and neither do they allow us to experience the full breadth of emotions humans were designed to experience.
Self-compassion gives us the opportunity to accept how we feel without judgment and, even more, it gives us the strength to ask for help. If you’re struggling today because of loss, exhaustion, or personal difficulties, please remember that you are worthy and deserving of compassion, especially from yourself. And if you need a listening ear don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you trust. We were not meant to suffer in isolation, we were meant to bring healing to one another together.
Blessings to you!