I’m realizing that compassion requires a lot from us humans. It requires we do inner work as we are connecting with another. Compassion can be toward someone else but it must be cultivated from within. If we’re unable to be compassionate with ourselves we cannot be compassionate with another. Compassion is required if we want intimacy and deep relationships.
I’ve typically thought of compassion as “the ability to suffer with another”. Recently, I learned that compassion originates from the Greek work splagna. Splagna means guts in Greek. So essentially, to have compassion is to connect deeply at the gut level. It’s allowing someone else’s experience to penetrate us in the gut.
The first requirement for compassion is presence. If we are not fully with someone, body, mind, and spirit, we can not have compassion for them. This is the inside job of compassion, we must set ourselves, our stories, and our solutions aside so we can sit with another. Compassion includes listening with an open body, mind, and spirit.
The second requirement of compassion is that we do our work. To “suffer with someone” implies that we have suffered and that we have allowed ourselves to experience and process that suffering. If we resist our own experience of loss and suffering we will resist that in others. If we haven’t done our work we are more likely to fall into the darkness with the other (if we’re even willing to see them at all) instead of extending a hand to hold them as they get their bearings and find a way to crawl out of their pit of suffering.
Compassion is deep connecting with deep. It requires us to be present and go into another’s experience at a gut level. Over our lifetimes, we have learned a wide variety of ways to mask our pain and deny our experiences. We have felt that we must defend ourselves from our gut experiences. However, in order to have compassion, we must set aside these defense mechanisms. We must be vulnerable in order to be compassionate.
This holiday season, may we choose to be compassionate with ourselves and others. May we let others have their experience, their choices, and their consequences. May we meet each other on deep levels recognizing the light within one another and doing our best to awaken that in each other. May we see with the eyes of our hearts that we all long to be loved and we are all innocent children of God. May we be filled with compassion!