I think sometimes we confuse compassion with sympathy, in that I mean that you can show sympathy, but not necessarily be empathetic or compassionate, it’s a fine line and not a skill we all possess, sometimes a person’s suffering can be so raw, it can make you flinch and we can be at a loss to know what to do.
I’ve always been a kind person, and tend absorb other peoples emotions, which can over ride the compassion I feel toward their situation and wasn’t always able to separate their pain from my own, it was a sharp learning curve.
The world we live in seems to have gone backwards, in terms of how we care about each other, everyday there are so many terrible things happening in the world, and of course their is the guilt of being impotent in the what we see and read, we show compassion in our hearts, we can give to charity, we can help out at shelters, were always moved and want to be able to do so much more, our senses battered by shocking images, it’s hard to know where you can be really useful.
Our day to day lives, where so much is hidden from view, even in this day and age people/we are often loathe to show our feelings, and sometimes when shown compassion we don’t know how to react to it, or respond to a touch, anything really that can make life more bearable even for a few minutes.
Several years ago I was having a pretty bad time, so bad that I’d entertained thoughts of suicide, but too much of a coward to see it through, anyway I made a phone call to a helpline, sitting there shaking with my bag of pills, we talked and talked for about three hours, I told her everything, it just poured out of me, it was like I couldn’t stop, I just talked and she listened never once interrupting, no platitudes, no talk of being positive, at some point I put down my little bag of oblivion and picked up my ever present cigarettes, my throat raw but sucking down nicotine life it was the exilir of life, finally I just stopped, wondering if she was still there.
She was of course, by now I was a little embarrassed and then tried to back track on all I’d said, you see I was ashamed of what my intended to do earlier, and even worse now spilling it all out to a complete stranger, even thinking had I done what I set out to do I realised to late I hadn’t tidied up and not left enough food out for the cats, odd the things you think of, I even said this(cringing).
Then she started talking, quite a soothing voice as she went over all I had revealed, and we talked it all through, and do you know what she understood, she believed what I had said, she felt I was worth saving, she felt I could go on, it was like she had her hand on my shoulder, and that was so comforting, I felt that somebody cared, and the relief that came with it, was like a huge weight had been lifted, it was a wonderful feeling.
I never knew her name, or saw her face, but her hand stayed on my shoulder for a long time and for the first time ever in my life I’d experienced true compassion, let me tell you it cannot be measured, that was for me an example of truly caring about another human being, and one I try to aspire to every chance I get.