Compassion is a muscle

I’ve added my voice to the movement. I hope you will too!

bloomingspiders

Image via Pinterest.  Must say I L.O.V.E it! Image via Pinterest. Must say I L.O.V.E it!

As much as I would like to, I don’t believe we are born with compassion.  I think we are born with the desire to be compassionate; a desire which becomes as useless as the most beautiful words never spoken, if not acted upon.  I think of compassion as a muscle, which gains strength as we use it.  We activate its fibers when we don’t avert our eyes and simply walk past the person holding a cardboard sign.  It grows and tingles when we offer a hand, a shoulder, or our heart to someone who’s mourning.  And it tears and grows stronger still, when, even at our most rock-bottom moments, we extend it to ourselves.

Compassion.

It’s a muscle.

It’s an intention.

It’s a practice.

It’s a choice.

Beyond blessed to be a small part of this. Beyond blessed to be a small part of this.

I am over the moon…

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8 Comments on “Compassion is a muscle

  1. Love this and I will join the movement too. Have you seen the video short voiced by Brene Brown about empathy. I actually recently included a link to it in a blog post I wrote about empathy and compassion. Here’s a link if you wanna check it out. http://courageinme.blogspot.com/2014/09/what-loss-left-behind.html. I think compassion and empathy are learned but some of us are probably more inclined to be compassionate depending on our personalities and/or personal experiences.

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    • I love Brene Brown! I read your post. I think it’s hardest sometimes to feel compassion for the people who have hurt us and walk in their shoes to try to understand why they made the choices they did. So often, their intention was never to hurt us at all. My dad used to tell me all the time that intention is everything. I hated it when he said that because I thought he was trying to excuse the harm people caused me but what he was really saying was to not be so self-centered and assume that what they did was really about me. I understand that now and I still don’t always like it but it rings true for me. Thank you for sharing the links!

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      • Yeah. Some people really ARE out to hurt you, but they are thankfully few and far between. Most others who cause problems are just out to get what they want, and you’re just the collateral damage. I suppose it does make a difference, but it doesn’t make an excuse, at least in my eyes.

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  2. I think we have an inherent capacity for compassion. We evolved as social animals living in small bands (150 people or fewer), where the action or inaction of one member of the group would directly affect everyone else. Being able to identify and empathize with the feelings of others was essential to group and individual survival, so the trait got passed down. In fact, it’s so hard-wired today that people without compassion are often diagnosed as sociopaths.

    That being said, modern life is impersonal and alienating. We don’t live in small bands anymore, so the suffering of random others does not directly impact our own survival. It’s easy to turn away and say “this doesn’t affect me,” because from an evolutionary perspective, that man with the cardboard sign is not part of our group. Of course, we are capable of rising above our evolutionary tendencies, but I think it’s necessary that we first recognize them, without judgement, as our default setting.

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  3. I think I am with Buechner on this one. I do have this fatal capacity. I am often more concerned with the big world than with my family. My poor family. As a shop steward, I have stood with my colleagues, where it does not seem like politically it will ever change where I work. The value of money over people will never sit right with me. Compassion is not a muscle, it is built in mental parameter that cannot be crossed. I will simply be destroyed before going against it because I know real life will press through the concrete of oppression.

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    • I wonder if any of us are as compassionate as we think we are. Like Buechner implies, we have to live in someone’s skin to have empathy for what they’re going through. What about compassion for people we don’t understand and can barely tolerate? I hope you add your voice to #1000 Speak. I’m really looking forward to what people have to say. Thank you for your thoughts!

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