A Choice of Compassion?

Compassion Words

{image credit via}

I had a little something bubbling inside me this weekend. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It was a visceral, unconscious, automatic response that I could not shake.

Unrelated, at the time, I was also working on my value list.

Today, as I was pondering my emotions, thinking about weekend experiences and putting together a digital scrapbook of my focus themes and values for 2012, I had a revelation.

I’ve come across situations in the past and even lately where people are hurt, abused, bullied, belittled, ignored, written-off, shouted down, dissed, sometimes time and again by the same aggressors. I’ve lamented to MacMan how I don’t understand why some people behave that way. Again and again and again. One day he said to me, “That’s how it is. That’s how they are. Why are you so surprised by their behaviour every time? Why do you expect anything different?”

Time and again, MacMan’s words have echoed in my head. Today, I pondered them again. “If I know it won’t change, why do I still react so strongly?”

Today, I saw it all in the context of one of my core values – compassion.

In doing the values exercise, I understood, amongst other things, that it would help me with decision making. If you know your values, the path you take should align with them. What I did not expect, is that some values might be so ingrained that I don’t get to make a conscious decision. 

I realise it is in my nature to try and give people a fair go, show empathy, be considerate to others, so I instinctively feel distressed when someone has been aggrieved. I just can’t stop myself. It’s even more disheartening if the aggresor(s) appear proud, feel justified or are indifferent towards the harm caused.

Why can’t we all be more respectful, considerate and understanding of others? We are all different. Everyone has a right to be heard. Everyone has a right to be who they are. Listen, hear, accept (though not necessarily always agree), and let differences aside, courteously, graciously. As a parent, I know this is the example I want to show to my children.

Being kind and considerate to others may not come naturally to everyone, but there’s nothing preventing any of us from choosing that path.


{image credit}


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44 thoughts on “A Choice of Compassion?

  1. I am not at all surprised by your revelation Vernoica. I could not imagine there is an indifferent bone in your body! I always try and see the best in people too, and like you say, it is an affront when there’s none to be found. People will disappoint us a lot in life. The best we can do is to not be one of them and bring our children up to be the same :).

    • Thanks for your kind words, Laney. I fear I may have projected an image I’m almost perfect with this post, given all the comments! I don’t profess to be at all. I get a bit judgey at times and critical but I just couldn’t then attack or bully someone with a different view because of it.

      I agree that life has its disappointments. The challenge is how to show our children this side of life and yet teach them to see the positive and be kind themselves. Have I just proposed a new Crash Test? Not sure how that would go!

  2. I wish people would be more compassionate. My husband is always saying, “People are mean” because there are so many non-compassionate people out there. I’m sure you are doing a great job teaching compassion to your kids as you’re such a nice person. BTW, Happy Chinese New Year!

    • Thanks, Maria. I’m not perfect and I am critical at times but part of me just tries to be sure to give the benefit of doubt where I can. I value that enough to make it a priority in dealing with people.

  3. Yes! Compassion is such a mighty, powerful emotion and value that more people should have. By bringing up our children with compassion we can change the world. Seriously. The more people with compassion the better the world will be.

    • I feel the same, Ames. I realise it mayn’t come naturally to some people but it wouldn’t matter if we didn’t live in the world with other people. But we do. I guess that’s why I feel the choice to care is important.

  4. I know it shouldn’t, but it often takes me by surprise that compassion isn’t an innate trait for most people. Working in health care, most people drawn to that industry have an amazing gift for compassion and empathy. Every now and then though, I come across someone who has very little understanding of the feelings of others, who does not treat others with the empathy or respect they deserve and I have to question why they have even chosen that career path. Beautiful post.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Chantel. I know when I have been at my most vulnerable, it has been such a comfort and reassurance to have a sensitive, reassuring medical professional help me through. The one time I had someone who was more clinical than comforting, I ended up wanting a second opinion. Turns out the first advice was accurate but the caring manner of the subsequent professionals just made the world of difference in getting through things.

    • Thanks, Rhi. I guess we’re wired differently but I still feel some things are important enough, if we live in this world with other people, to make a conscious effort for.

  5. I have never thought of it that way, actually.

    Time and time again, I give people a chance and time and time again I am left in a state of shock and a whole range of emotions when they do the ‘same thing’ again. I hurt for them and I hurt when they hurt someone else.

    I never thought of it as compassion but now that I think about it, I suppose it is. I WANT them to be happy, I hate seeing people distressed. It makes ME distressed lol

    A great post, it has given me a few thing’s to think about…!

    • Thanks for your comment, Lauren. Compassion, empathy, concern, caring, I suppose are all related. I feel it’s worth giving people second chances but I also stop expecting things to change with some if there is no evidence of it. I still find it hard to understand why some behave the way they do but we are all so different. I hope you find some answers as you ponder this topic.

  6. I have often thought the same thing Veronica.

    What many find as second nature, others struggle with. To often we find compassion lacking in our society. I wonder if it is our fast paced lifestyles that is contributing to this. As Ames says, by displaying compassion to our children and teaching them through our actions we can change the world.

    • Your comment has made me wonder, Amy, if people were more caring, considerate and compassionate, in “the olden days” (!) where there was more a sense of community. I suppose it’s often said of people who live in small towns where there might be more of a community, that “everyone knows everyone’s business” and sometimes that breeds more gossip and secrets. It’s an interesting thing to ponder. Even though it’s not easy for some, I know I personally feel it is a value worth espousing and promoting; maybe irrelevant if we were Robinson Crusoe though. Lol!

  7. Because people don’t take the time to stop, count to 10, think about their reaction they just jump right in. I’m guilty of doing it in the past, too. We’re all in such a rush, impatient, not caring about what is going on around us. We all need to slow down, breathe, and yes, CHOOSE the path of kindness and compassion. Good reminder!

    • Good point! Sometimes we do dive in on adrenalin, all guns blazingly to attack. It takes restraint to slow down. I’m not perfect and am “judgey” and critical at times too but I guess it’s my nature to take it more slow. I suppose it’s also because I dislike conflict too! šŸ™‚

  8. Yes yes yes! Compassion is such a lost art these days unfortunately.
    Boatman oftens says the same thing as MacMan; that’s the way things are. Well it’s not the way things should be. Maybe I’m idealistic, but people should have some consideration and compassion for others. It’s just commen decency.

    • Jess, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being idealistic if it’s tempered with some pragmatism too. I do believe strongly in common decency and the golden rule too.

  9. Compassion is such a hard thing to bear – it makes us hurt more, angry more, feel more, cry more. But would I rather be cold-hearted, cynical and distrusting? No thank you.

  10. I think some people are naturally wired to be more compassionate than others, but I do believe it is something we can teach our children too. Compassion and empathy can only make a more peaceful world! And yes, it can be a burden to carry such heavy emotions around, but the flipside is so amazing. To be compassionate means you’re engaged in humanity, it means being connected with people on a deep level. You are also a warm and approachable person as a result. Which is why I respect you so much, Veronica. xx

    • Thanks for your kind words, Deb. I hope no one thinks I was implying I was perfect with this post. I stumble and get critical and judge too, but I try to stop and think from both sides, if I can. I’m more a peacemaker (nicer word than avoider of conflict? lol) than not. I struggle to understand those who bully though. I just don’t get it and I hate when I see it happening to others, especially when it’s proclaimed as justifiable. Very sad.

  11. I have wondered the same thing.I think im a fairly compassionate person Even forgive when others wouldnt. Its not an easy thing. But when i am hurt badly i do hold that with me and still do. I hope that hurt doesnt ever change me and i dont think it will. I wish there were more compassionate people out there. You are without a doubt compassionate and caring. Beautiful post x

    • Thanks for your kind words, Jocelyn. I’m definitely not perfect but being considerate is something I can’t help but try to be. Sometimes it’s hard to forget pains and injustices but I’ve learnt that it’s important to let go of the sting of those incidents (sometimes it takes time) otherwise they continue to consume and hamper us long after the “perpetrators” have moved on and forgotten all about it. Why give them that sort of power over our lives?!

    • Thanks for your input, Deb. Sometimes lots of things in life are choices we have to make, like getting up out of bed when we are sleep-deprived and attending to clingy kiddies whilst sick, when you’d rather put your feet up and enjoy a hot cup of tea! Lol!

  12. I’m not sure how I feel about this post. Why people don’t have more compassion? Probably because no one taught them compassion and probably they had things in their lives that have taken them in other directions. Of course, they have a choice to be compassionate, but maybe it hasn’t even crossed their minds that they have a choice. I’m not trying to justify anyone’s behaviour here. What I’m trying to say is everyone is who they are for a reason. We have a choice to focus on what we can change instead of on what we can’t (how others are).

    Compassion came to mind, when I was doing the values exercise, but it didn’t make it into my values. It might be just for linguistic reasons, but I don’t relate to this word well. The literal translation into my language is ‘co-suffering’ and by suffering with others you are not empowering them to feel better and you are not bringing anything positive out. Not unless you act to change something The English version of the word is much better – sharing a passion with someone is a whole different meaning, isn’t it?

    • I appreciate your perspective, Tat. Valid points. I have come across some people who just don’t seem to care or even realise their behaviour is offensive or painful to others. It is possible it’s due to difficult experiences and other insecurities in their lives. I personally, don’t think it’s right or fair for them to hurt and bully others because of it. I still see it as socially unacceptable behaviour, but I can see some may need to overcome past hurt and distrust before being able to be more caring or considerate towards others.

      Thanks for the explanation in your language too. It’s always fascinating to learn how different meanings can be conjured in other languages.

  13. Yes, I love how you say we can choose the path of compassion even if it doesn’t come naturally. It is so obvious that it does come naturally to you… It is hard to witness injustice, lack of compassion, aggression etc. Compassion is definitely a core value I’d like to instill in my children too.

  14. If only there were more people like you in the world Veronica! Compassion is all too easily tossed aside by people it doesn’t take a lot, but often it is too much to ask which is sad.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Erin. I think many people are more likely to be caring and considerate than not. It’s just hard to fully accept how some can be so deliberately vindictive and hurtful. I guess not everyone might realise they are that way either. And some might change once they realise it, and others might not care. We are all individuals after all. We can all also choose what type of people we will interact with and those we won’t.

  15. I could not agree with you more. There was a very unsettling incident last week that rattled me… mainly because I really, really did not understand how it happened. And it didn’t matter how many times I went over it in my head, I simply couldn’t make sense of it. At all. But you’re right. Core values probably lie at the root of it. But how do you encourage others to adopt those same core values of compassion, empathy and tolerance? I wish I knew. A very thought provoking and beautiful post.

    • Thanks, Misha. I’ve found the comments to the post interesting. I think some people don’t realise they are being mean, for want of a better word. Once they do, they change. Others, however, seem to have a pattern of such behaviour and I know how hard it is to change people, especially if they are unaware or don’t want to change. I think all I can do is keep trying to be considerate. Maybe it will rub off. And if not, at least I can moderate how much I interact with them. I think we are all the way we are from both nature and nurture and maybe those who are intolerant were taught to be that way or not taught otherwise. Personally, I don’t think that makes mean, intolerant or bully behaviour socially acceptable but sometimes a little understanding can help. It is a complicated issue really, when you dig into it. I’m not perfectly compassionate, considerate or tolerant but I know it’s important enough to me to try to be.

  16. I have seen some horrible things happen of late and wondered why and it makes sense to me that you’ve worked out that a core value of compassion would lend a person to be hurt by the things others do to hurt those around them.
    It’s amazing to me that there seems to be so little compassion when there is so much talk of treating each other better and being non judgmental.

    • Thinking on your comment, I think it is easy sometimes to jump onto and issue and get judgemental. The thing for me is to temper those strong emotions and think them through before I say or do anything. I guess I have other mottos/values that come into play like “do unto others” and “say nothing if I can’t be nice”. We all know some people speak first before thinking. I guess the thing is that we all do the thinking at some point and make amends if we’ve hurt someone. I can’t stay angry or totally offended at someone who comes back and apologise for causing hurt. It’s those who don’t seem to care that I find hard to understand. I guess it just goes against the grain for me.

  17. Compassion is an incredible quality. I strive to be more compassionate and I long for others to be the same. This is an awesome quality to have Veronica and you can see you have it in abundance in your words. This is something I so want my kids to have and continue practicing throughout their lives – and it is up to my hubby and I to lead the way as an example. xx

    • Thanks, Robyn. We’re not all from the same mould but I think nature and nurture can work together to help us in developing these qualities, especially in our children.

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