Compassion is something I struggle with. Not because I don’t feel it, but sometimes because I feel it too much and it becomes immobilizing.
What is compassion? And how can we act upon our feelings instead of being stuck in them?
Compassion is defined as “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” A great example of something that inspired feelings of compassion in me today is the New York Times article concerning Uma Thurman’s account of her abuse by both Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino. I can’t help but feel sorry for her, for the terrible things she had to go through, and I share her feelings of frustration and anger with the kind of men who would deliberately put her in harm’s way or personally assault her.
This is the kind of thing women have to deal with every day. I’m a woman. I have felt those exact feelings, walked in her shoes. And so I sympathize with her.
But my feelings can often get in the way of taking action. How does one lead a compassionate life, without feeling this overwhelming wave of pity and sadness that eventually sours to anger?
Here are three good examples of how we can try to put our compassionate feelings into concrete actions:
- Show kindness to others, without expecting anything in return.
- Think before speaking (and, in the age of social media, before writing!), to be sure your words are coming from a place of love.
- Practice active listening, allowing others the chance to speak and be heard.
Regarding the article on Uma Thurman, I still don’t quite know how I can turn my compassionate feelings for what she has suffered into a concrete action. But I do know that I seek to support women who have suffered similar abuse, and that I want to help amplify their voices so that real change can occur. Part of the way I plan to do that is by publishing an issue of my literary magazine, Black Heart, on the theme “A World Without Men.”
If you would like to share your story, please be sure to read my full submission guidelines for the issue here.