Compassion is one of those generally understood terms that seem to elude definition by the person using it. Often when asked to define compassion we hesitate, then offer examples of compassion instead of a definition. I include myself in this community.
The dictionary definition of compassion is “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” Compassion is what drives us to take time out to help those in need. I have the good fortune to know a lot of compassionate people and it’s common to see them temporarily set aside their own dreams and aspirations to help someone less fortunate.
Now that we have a definition and some of the behaviors we’ve observed in compassionate people, it’s time to see what drives these behaviors…what the hallmarks of compassion are.
I doubt that you’re surprised that I listed this one given that the focus of my work is teaching confidence. Yet confidence is essential for a person to be compassionate. Confident people know that they have the wherewithal to achieve whatever they desire.
They also know that they have the ability to deal with any situation that arises. Consequently, they don’t worry that setting aside their personal aspirations or challenges to help others is going to in any way diminish the likelihood that they’ll achieve what they desire. It’s this confidence in their ability that enables them to put others’ needs ahead of their own.
Compassionate people possess an abundance mentality. They know that regardless of how much they give to others, they’ll always receive multiples in return…not necessarily from the person they’re helping, but often from unexpected sources (the universe).
Let’s contrast that with the feelings of people with a scarcity mentality. These folks regularly worry that what they possess is at risk…that they may lose what they have. They fear that the less fortunate, or the government, will take some of what they have. Their fear focuses their actions on protecting what they have and shielding themselves from others’ needs.
That brings us to the third hallmark of compassion, humility.
There is a tendency among successful people, who possess a scarcity mindset, to believe that they are the sole reason for their success. That triggers thoughts like “I didn’t have anything given to me. I worked for it. If you want something better than get out there and work for it.”
The more humble among us think “I’ve been very fortunate. Yes, I worked hard to achieve what I have, but I’ve had a lot of help along the way. I’m going to make sure that I extend that same help to others who, but for a little assistance, a little encouragement, might not achieve what they desire.”
Some humble people realize that they were blessed with a home environment that gave them a huge leg up. Others discover that their less-than-ideal family situation motivated them to build a better life for themselves and their families.
Ask a humble person what made it possible for him to achieve what he has and he’ll name a number of people whose advice and encouragement helped propel him to the success he enjoys. It’s what drives him to be like these people.
If you find yourself experiencing the fear and anxiety of scarcity and you’d like to replace these emotions with the joy of compassion, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I confident enough to know that I can achieve anything I desire and deal with any and all challenges I face?
- When I give, do I do so with feelings of anxiety, a fear that I may later need what I’m giving?
- As I consider my success, do my thoughts first go to what I’ve achieved…or to who helped me achieve it?
The answers to these questions will help you discover where you need to focus your efforts to become more compassionate. Remember, like everything in life, compassion is a spectrum. It runs from rarely compassionate to consistently compassionate. We are all compassionate to some degree or in certain situations. Becoming consistently compassionate is one of the keys to joyful living.
If you find that you lack some of the confidence necessary to be more compassionate, I may know someone who can help you with that.
If your challenge is a scarcity mindset, begin giving in small ways:
- Offer a tip to someone who’s struggling.
- Offer encouragement.
- Give away things that you no longer use.
- Donate time to help the less fortunate.
The psychic rewards are phenomenal. You’ll enjoy seeing people who were previously stuck, suddenly propel themselves forward. People who were afraid to go on an interview because their clothes weren’t very good, get the job because your clothing donation helped them be more confident. You’ll experience hugs from kids who don’t often get the love and attention that we all deserve. Or you’ll see appreciation on the faces of people getting a warm meal they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Regardless of what you choose to give, you’ll not only get these psychic rewards, you’ll also notice that more good things are coming your way…if you’re paying attention. All too often we fail to see the connection between what we’re giving in one area with the good we experience in another. Once you realize that you’re receiving multiples back for the compassion you show, you’ll give freely and enjoy it immensely.
If your compassion is hindered by a lack of humility, make a list of the advantages you had as you were growing up. Then make a list of people whose counsel and encouragement assured your success and what it was they said or did that made the difference.
Then review the list each morning shorty after you rise and again just before bed. Very quickly, you’ll develop a desire to pay their kindness forward…to be that person whom you admire and appreciate so much. You will become that person…in your own style.
You’ll not only become more compassionate, you’ll experience the joy of compassion.
For our kids
First and foremost, live these messages. Kids won’t believe what you tell them unless you’re living it. Second, keep the questions to these three hallmarks in mind as you observe your child’s behavior. Regardless of whether their challenge is confidence, abundance or humility, you now have the tools to help them early in life so that they have decades more joy than you or I may have had as we developed this awareness later in life.
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your thoughts in a comment.
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