Our world is fast paced, immediate. From the moment we get up in the morning, to the moment we lay our heads back on the pillow (and not forgetting those hours of tossing and turning when insomnia hits), our sense of urgency and anxiety is fuelled by 24 hour rolling mass and social media, constant notifications, messages and texts being fed through our phones, and the overall demands of working, paying bills, looking after the family and attempting to maintain a sense of balance.
Outside of our own world, there are tragedies and disasters that hurt our hearts, and can make us feel guilty for the negative emotions we may feel. When you consider the absolute anguish of those affected by the recent Turkish earthquake, for example, your own problems may seem miniscule by comparison. However, it is neither helpful nor beneficial to devalue your own issues, and it only encourages guilt which will further add toxicity to your own wellbeing.
What is compassion
The word ‘compassion’ stems from the Latin meaning, ‘to suffer together’. However, it has evolved to incorporate feelings of understanding, empathy and altruism, meaning that someone who feels compassion does not just recognise the pain, but actively wants to do something about it.
Compassion is a much about caring for one’s self, as it is for others. If not kept in check, it can become all consuming, when you become so enmeshed in other’s suffering that you lose sight of your own life.
Developing compassion as part of a healthy approach to life
In Islam, one of the five pillars is called Zakat, which translates as ‘charity’. Muslims are encouraged to accept Zakat as a way of life, as a way of deepening their connection to Allah. This charity is connected to showing compassion for those less fortunate in the world, those who are born into communities that struggle with famine, poverty and disease. For those Muslims who have the good fortune of being born in wealthier countries have the opportunity to share out this good fortune to those less fortunate through giving Zakat every year. In becomes part of their rhythm in life, and is a proactive, positive and healthy approach to weaving compassion seamlessly into your way of life.
The three ‘graces’ – faith, hope and charity
In Christian theology, the three graces of faith, hope and charity outline a similar approach to life. Charity is usually referred to as the greatest of all three virtues. Traditionally, charity was referred to as the love of humankind. In the more modern sense, we now understand charity as the voluntary giving of help, usually in the form of a monetary exchange.
How to have a healthy approach to compassion
Identification and externalisation: Too often we can take the pain, suffering and troubles of others onto our shoulders and becomes too great a burden. The pain of others can become your own pain. Preventing this from happening can require a great mental shift, particularly if you are a highly emotional person who feels the pain of others too much. You must learn to understand boundaries, and one way of doing this is to spend more time concentrating on those within your immediate family circle. Spend time with your partner and children, do something fun, understand that you cannot be responsible for everyone’s pain.
You cannot and will not take on everyone else’s burden without hurting yourself and those who love you.
Make sure you practice self compassion
Do not forget to practice self compassion – take some time out to treat yourself, to give yourself some time and space. You are the centre of your world – recognise that and take care of yourself.