True compassion is to understand the suffering of another in the absence of pity or sorrow. When you feel sorry for someone else, you are actually taking on their emotional pain – and that does not serve anyone.
Before you can show compassion to anybody else you must first learn self-compassion. It is difficult to show someone else genuine compassion when you have not treated yourself with this same compassion and forgiveness. You are the only one who knows the struggles and range of emotions you have felt. You must first acknowledge this suffering and to accept yourself as you are and the situation for what it is.
When something disastrous happens first panic sets in, then anger, and eventually we play the “why me game”. When we free ourselves from placing blame onto ourselves or others we are able to see past the event that caused the pain. The pain and struggle to move beyond the event can now be used as fuel to ignite inspiration.
When I realized the seriousness of my circumstance – that I may never walk again or live the kind of life that I had imagined for myself – I felt myself experience the range of emotions associated with loss. Initially, I was confused and didn’t really understand how my entire course of my life could have changed in a matter of days. I felt anger I was angry that this horrible illness had left me paralyzed and weak. Finally, I started to question why this had to happen to me. I rationalized that I was not a bad person and that I did not deserve to be afflicted with this condition. I soon realized that this circumstance was not a punishment and that there was not anything or anyone to blame.
When you make peace with an event or circumstance, you let go of your attachment to your expectations and wishes for a different outcome. You now possess an acceptance for the situation as it is without judgment or expectation. When I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I was able to see what a gift it would be to reclaim my life. I realized that only I had the power to decide what I wanted my life to be and only I had the ability to get myself there.
Rather than commiserate with another’s sorrows, I developed a deeper understanding of the gift and of the value of true unselfish compassion. I now choose to be a source of strength. It was not helping anyone to make others feel the pain that I was feeling. Instead, I was inspired to move past uncomfortable times because of the unwavering support, strength and true compassion of my family and friends.
“As we serve others we are working on ourselves; every act, every word, every gesture of genuine compassion naturally nourishes our own hearts as well. It is not a question of who is healed first. When we attend to ourselves with compassion and mercy, more healing is made available for others. And when we serve others with an open and generous heart, great healing comes to us.” – Wayne Muller