Having Compassion in an Age of Passion



Jim Ryan

ONE EVENING, WHILE GIVING A TALK at the local library on my favorite topic—how to find “simple happiness”—I  was telling a story about a woman on my block who would never acknowledge me when our paths crossed. I would always give a friendly wave as I passed her  during my walks or if she came by my house as I was doing yard work. Each time she would look away or put her head down, averting her eyes. I couldn’t understand why this woman always ignored my friendly hellos. After all, I was just being friendly. “What’s the matter with her?” I asked, turning to the audience, in a somewhat annoyed voice. Then a woman in the second row raised her hand and quietly offered, “Maybe she’s shy.”

That was the moment I got a lesson in the true meaning of compassion. All around us, there’s plenty of passion—every day the new media is filled with politicians and pundits pronouncing their opinions about  the way things should be done and how others should do them. And here I was, talking about finding happiness and realizing that I had been exhibiting a total lack of compassion toward my neighbor. Sure, I was being “friendly, ” but in that friendliness was also an expectation of how my neighbor should act.

We’ve all heard the expression, “Have little compassion.” But what does that really mean? When I ask that question at my presentations, I usually get answers you would expect: empathy, feeling for others, kindness and understanding. Though these answers are correct, let me tell you what compassion has come to mean for me.

Compassion is allowing others to be who they want to be. Compassion is not judging the actions of others according to our standards and values. Compassion is cutting others some slack, instead of criticizing them. Compassion is not a feeling of superiority. It is the realization and acknowledgment of the dignity that each one of us possesses. It is a basic understanding that every one of us is trying to do their best to figure things out on our own path through life. Compassion is the conscious decision to send out love to those who cross our path.

What a load off our shoulders!  Being compassionate means we don’t have to get upset when people do things differently from how we would like them to. It’s extremely liberating , allowing others to be who they want to be. And when we are compassionate to others, we end up bringing happiness to ourselves.

Jim Ryan is a motivational speaker who frequently gives talks across Long Island, New York inspiring people through anecdotes, quotes, humor and song to live their best lives now.  He is the author of Simple Happiness;  52 Easy Ways to Lighten Up and Jim Ryan’s Aha Moments.  Contact: info@jimryantalks.com or visit www.JimRyanTalks.com.

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