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Stepping up compassion

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We often confuse compassion with empathy yet they are different. Of course empathy is really important if we are to stand any chance of being in real relationship with another. Our ability to suspend judgement and assumption, to connect and to have a felt sense of the other person’s world however incomplete, enables us to engage in relationship through the heart. We ‘see’ the other through a more allied lens and at least for a moment we can have some sense of their joy, their pain, their suffering.

Compassion when viewed from the soul perspective has a wider, inclusive and yet also objective stance to it. It stands on the foundation of empathy but isn’t mired in over association with the other’s feelings. In this regard, true compassion contains both love and will in that it moves us to want to alleviate suffering, not because we have become subsumed by it or over identified with it, which can be the risk of being too empathic, but because we hold a strong universal love for all living things.

Compassion invites us to hold suffering within the container of our heart, to feel it and then go beyond feeling…to want to take action – not in a vengeful way but in actions that alleviate suffering for all. It invokes a higher justice, the right to life, to understanding and to be loved.

We are being offered countless opportunities to feel compassion in our world today. Opportunities to engage our hearts and our higher will to act in alleviating the suffering in our world. What sort of action?

As Emily Dickinson writes:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.

In this poem we might define our actions as the actions of peace-making, tolerance, hopefulness, relationship building, seeking harmony and committing ourselves to the greater good. These are all acts of compassion for ourselves individually and for the world at large.

Stepping up to compassion is to enter the chalice of the heart knowing that the pain and suffering of all can be held there and yet not render us inert. That we can hold it all and still function each and every day, take small and large actions, and step by step work toward true peace, beauty and love.