In the United States this is an often overlooked holiday. Today is Flag Day.
A mere 245 years ago, our forefathers worked together to officially recognize “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” be forever represented by a standard banner.
While its description varies only slightly; as the field of stars has increased in girth as we have grown (but haven’t we all, lol), the concepts of this powerful symbol hold true. “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
As a young child, I remember in school singing this tribute and I hope you’ll join me today in sharing that tradition.
Oh.. but don’t worry! I’m not actually leading this sing-along…
Now this can also be a banner day in other ways. If we simply choose to make it an exceptional one. How? By sharing things that we all need, and if recent discourse proves anything, what we need more of right now is compassion.
Compassion. Take a moment and think about what it means for you.
It can be highly subjective. Did you answer being kind? Treating others with empathy? Or being respectful to others? All these answers are partially correct, yet not quite.
In order to further our shared understanding let’s develop our definition
Reaching over to my modern adaptation of a bookshelf, better described as opening another tab in my browser, and then clicking over to merriam-webster.com, we can learn their dictionary describes compassion as the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”.
An alternate source, the dictionary built into Google Docs offers this explanation: “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”. Similar yet not exactly the same and as we continue along you’ll see that I want to remove the word “pity” from our discussions. No pity parties here, nor should we be viewing others through that distorted lens.
Wikipedia offers this, “Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, mental, or emotional pains of another and themselves”.
Three accounts with common traits, yet distinguishing differences. All speak of feeling and taking action. Yet they differ by their focuses of distress, pity, and pain. Similar yet each charged wth their own emotion sparking different response from each of us.
Therefore I ask you to choose to accept this understanding that I have developed:
“Becoming compassionate is accepting the conscious process of showing kindness and sharing empathy with others, so that we may then decide to assist all those we can.”
Our definition of becoming compassionate involves a developing of skills, levels and achievement. It also makes compassion an active action. Something we must not only understand and accept, but must also decide to give and receive freely.
In sharing compassion we do show kindness and empathy towards others ( and hopefully ourselves) though empathy is used to describe a whole range of emotions. The primary difference is empathy is when you can accept the emotions of another in a given situation, while compassion also includes the desire to take action to aid the individual.
A widely stated adage expresses, “a single act of compassion can change a person’s life forever”.
Making it a very Becoming quality. Sharing compassion allows us to feel and assist. It motivates us to transform suffering, pain or injustice into healing, growth and change.
I have found that compassion can be one of the most powerful forces in the world. It allows for judgment to be replaced with acceptance thus creating an atmosphere in which we can embrace diversity and be welcoming towards all as equals regardless of any perceived distinctions.
As I stated earlier each and every person on Earth truly wants compasion, and every human being is deserving of it. Giving compassion empowers inclusiveness allowing all of us to be more fully active and engaged in living.
So then how do we put compassion into our daily practices?
For your consideration here are Becoming Today’s 8 – Steps For Compassion
- Sharing encouraging words.
We’ve spoken before about choosing our words carefully and how to declare ourselves boldly, respectfully and confidently. Just remembering a simple, random kind word could be the motivation for someone to take the next step on their own journey towards Becoming Today.
- Performing Random Acts of Kindness.
Opening a door for someone. Helping that older woman in the grocery store reach something, phoning a friend who has been experiencing challenges. All of these are examples of easy to do actions, that when practiced on compassion not only require much energy but will also bolster the mood, attitude and strengths of both the recipient and the giver.
- Adopting An Attitude of Gratitude.
Say thank you more often. To others, to God and even to ourselves. Treating each day as a time of thanksgiving leads to a more contented life. Research has revealed that by accepting the daily practice of giving thanks increases happiness by as much as 25 percent.
- Becoming A Better Listener
Often the best way to build, improve or repair a relationship is simply by listening. Making the effort to truly hear what others have or need to say builds bridges and opens doors. Listen intently and sincerely. Be willing to learn how to listen better. Are you still paying attention here? The research indicates you may not be.
During this century the average attention span had been cut nearly in half. Research suggests most of us are not paying attention for more than 8 seconds at a time. WOW! We all need to be becoming better listeners.
- Learning To Advocate
Becoming an advocate involves being a person who speaks up for and defends the rights of others. You assist them with communicating their needs, often in those moments when “Life Happens”. You help them to navigate through difficult situations and overcome challenges.
- Being Respectful Of Privacy
Never disclose anything about another’s situation without their permission. Don’t try to force responses from others. If they are nor ready or unwilling to share something, accept that and I have always found that in the proper time and place, people will share what they need you to know enabling you to assist them. Others be open to the fact that they may not yet be ready (or willing) to seek or accept help.
- Performing A Service.
Volunteering connects you with others. It allows for positive experiences for both the recipient and the volunteer. It may give you the opportunity to make new friends and improve your social skills and is good for the soul. Volunteering can be a structured activity through an organization or church as well as simply doing a favor for a neighbor. Look around, opportunities to be of service are everywhere.
- Challenging Yourself to SMILE More.
It is a medical fact that smiling releases endorphins, helping you to feel happier and more positive. A study by Scientific American found that smiling improves mood and increases positive thoughts.You and all those around you will share the benefits. In addition seeing a smile makes others feel rewarded, more content and fulfilled. So go ahead and show some teeth, a smile is a small, but mighty action that has a major impact on someone else.
Summing up compassion involves having, experiencing and sharing a genuine sympathy for the hardships, troubles or circumstances of another. One of the primary things to remember about sharing compassion is that it comes from your heart. It must be sincere, honest and open. Look beyond your differences and be accepting of others and they in turn may very well choose to do the same for you.
Don’t forget that being compassionate begins with you being so, towards yourself. Praise yourself for your successes and forgive yourself for your mistakes. Focus on your more Becoming qualities rather than areas where you know you have challenges.
To begin this process, accept personal responsibility. Embrace the ability to unconditionally love all aspects of who we are. Both the positive and negative. It all starts with the proper attitude. In order to fully accept your reality, you must take ownership of any role you may have played, good or bad, in leading you to where you are. Make sure you are taking care of yourself. More on that tomorrow when we continue our discussion of C.D.R, continuing with the second element of Dignity.
As always I welcome your compassionate (or otherwise) comments below. If you are not comfortable with sharing publicly, feel free to reach out to me through the easy to use form on the Contact page.
I hope you can raise a banner of compassion alongside that flag we celebrate together on this edition of “Becoming Today”.