On what Compassion really is

So this has been messing with my mind.

Created by Love Wins Ministries www.lovewinsministries.org
Created by Love Wins Ministries http://www.lovewinsministries.org

Many thanks to Love Wins Ministries for posting this quote by Pema Chodron.  I had never heard of this woman, and so with a little digging, I found that she is a notable American figure in Tibetan Buddhism.  She is also a prolific writer.  She is a thinker and a mind blower.

At least she has blown mine.

See, she’s speaking to me on a couple of different levels here.  First of all, trying to fully wrap my brain around this–the darkness I have walked through, still find myself in at times, it all helps me to be with someone else who is struggling.  Because I’ve been there. Maybe not on the same path, but I’ve been lost, hurt, confused, overwhelmed.  I get it.  And this suggests that I need to know my darkness well, not just rush through it, looking for the quickest way out of the pain, the grief, the loss, the hurt.  I must acknowledge it, process it, and work through it, or it’s of no good to me or anyone else.  Darkness worked through can shine light into the lives of others.  It brings with it hope and the knowledge that it can be done.

And that part about compassion being between equals?  I love it.  I can sit and offer a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, not because I have a degree in therapy or because I’ve been trained to do so, but because I care.  One is not looking down at another, holding on to all the compassion, doling it out as though bestowing a gift to the less fortunate.  Instead it’s an equal playing field between two people who each needs the other.

It IS about recognizing our shared humanity, isn’t it?  I mean what else is there?  It’s why we love, why we care, why we are motivated to step outside of our little boxes of comfort everyday and risk our hearts at all.  Because we are all on this journey together.

All day when I have thought of that quote, I’ve had this vision in my head.  I think my Cousin put it there, but for a totally different reason.

Remember that moment in “The Wizard of Oz” when the Wizard “head” makes them all tremble and ask for what they need?  He is so mighty and powerful, looking down upon them, telling them what they must do to find their way into his favor to get his assistance.

But then, we all remember what happens later, don’t we?  Daring little Toto pulling the curtain back to reveal that instead of a great and powerful “being,” the Wizard is a person just like Dorothy, and actually he needs her as much as she needs him.

And that’s it in a nutshell, right?

We need each other.


When we recognize what we have in common–the darkness, brokenness, hope-filled hearts, our need to be loved–and what we share–this world, dreams, plans, our humanity–we can truly be present for each other.  Offering love, forgiveness, a hand to hold, a friend to sit with–compassion.

This week has been Spring break for the children in our neighborhood.  We have pushed through for the most part.  We’re smelling the barn, seeing that light at the end of the tunnel, you might say if you didn’t mind mixing metaphors.  However this week, after our experience on Sunday when I realized we needed more togetherness in our own family, I have added in a new course of study.

Exactly that.


Bonus points and praise and a big hug from Mama when I catch someone being compassionate.  (Okay, just kidding about the points.) Doing something kind for someone else.  Showing understanding and grace.  Using loving words.  And *whispering* I think it might be working.  Yesterday Cooter carried in his sister’s loom bands without anyone asking at all.  He saw them and just thought of doing it.  I almost cried.  I did clap my hands.  And he beamed.

When we accept what we have in common and what we don’t, we are in a better position to love and understand and offer those things to another.  We aren’t going to make the world a better place by trying to change others to be like us, to share our views.  We will make it a better place when we allow others to be exactly who they are and love them all the more for it.

It’s just too short to settle for anything less.

Love to all.







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