Compassion

In the mental health field and other helping fields, there is a painful awareness that life is full of suffering. 

I can say from my experience when working with so many people struggling, it is easy to become discouraged by it all. 

If you have battled with your own suffering or have witnessed suffering in another, you too may have experienced or continue to experience your own discouragement. 

Let's face it, life can be very cruel and difficult. 

So what can we do it about? How can we avoid discouragement and embrace the suffering within ourselves and the suffering in others? 

Well let's first start off by what we shouldn't do: 

-We shouldn't put people or ourselves down for the way they feel

-We shouldn't disempower ourselves or others and downplay one's  experience

-We shouldn't ask ourselves or others to think of others who have it worse

-We shouldn't offer quick, disingenuous solutions

-We shouldn't tell people to stop complaining or to stop crying, or to shut up our own emotional expression

This is the opposite of compassion. Compassion in Latin means to "to suffer with." Suffering with, is all about accompaniment and shared vulnerability.

Therefore, in order to be compassionate and suffer with we must: 

-Listen well

-Respond with empathy

-Recognize the pain in another as very real

-Allow vulnerable and authentic emotional expression

And why? How does this help our own discouragement with so much pain in others or even in our own lives? 

Well the more we show compassion, the more our lives are transformed, along with those around around us. 

It in our compassion, we are reminded we belong to one another. 

It is in our compassion we are given eyes to see what has become unbalanced and broken.

It is in our compassion, we are able to perceive what has been disrupted and needs repair. 

It is in our compassion, we are given the tools to offer healing and reconciliation. 

It is in our compassion we are united with others in a way that is very powerful and intimate.

This only becomes tangible when we know and experience suffering. 

Therefore, as we embrace suffering and sometimes even wrestle with it, what once was unbearably painful begins to take new shape. What was once  becomes transformed into new strength, new awareness, new wisdom, and deeper compassion. 

The moment we stop being compassionate and aim to rid suffering out of our lives completely is the moment we miss out from the good suffering can bring and the good work we can do in the lives of others. 

So when you're faced with yet another hurt in your own life or the lives of others, remember the gift suffering brings and the gift you can bring in response.