So I set out to try to develop more compassion this week.
Honestly, I feel like I have been LESS compassionate the more I try. I have screamed more at my kids this week than probably any other in their lives. Why does that happen? I have prayed for compassion, and have been studying the scriptures and the internet to learn more about compassion. And I've tried to do some acts of compassion every day.
I have learned a lot about compassion. Let's start with the definition. The literal definition, broken down from Latin. "To suffer with", "co-suffer". That surprised me. Further into the definition and you learn it's empathy in action.
I was able to witness a beautiful example of compassion between my sweet daughters. We went to McDonald's for dinner before the Water Tower Lighting. On the way to the lighting, Abigail dropped her little McDonald's toy out the window. Both girls begged me to please stop so they could get the toy. Well for one, we were running late and Olivia was going to perform, and two, it was a pretty busy road and didn't particularly think the 50 cent toy was worth risking our lives for. So I told them no, which led to much crying. And I was surprised to see Olivia was also crying. Genuinely heartbroken for her sister's loss. She reached over and tried to hug Abigail, and then said, "Here Abigail, it's okay. You can have my toy."
That to me is the perfect example of compassion. Genuinely feeling someone's suffering, to the point where it moves you to action. Compassion makes you do things.
There was a lot of information from Hindu scripture and philosophers. They have three separate types of compassion. I liked thinking about each one and how they all work together.
Three most common terms are daya, karuna,and anukampa.
Daya - as the virtuous desire to mitigate the sorrow and difficulties of others by putting forth whatever effort necessary. Daya (compassion) is not kripa (pity) in Hinduism, or feeling sorry for the sufferer, because that is marred with condescension; compassion is feeling one with the sufferer. Compassion is the basis for ahimsa, a core virtue in Hindu philosophy.
Karuna, another word for compassion in Hindu philosophy, means placing one's mind in other's favor, thereby seeking to understand the other from their perspective.
Anukampa, yet another word for compassion, refers to one's state after one has observed and understood the pain and suffering in other.
And now this is a real essay, since I just plagiarized Wikipedia. At least let me cite my source, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compassion.
Another thing that came to my mind was compassion in my marriage. And particularly this thought keeps swirling around in my mind, "Compassion, not competition". How easy it is to compare our days and our situations and get into this passive aggressive argument about who has it worse. We both end up feeling unappreciated, and angry. I mean, I deal with THREE children who make no sense! They throw fits about english muffins, and poop on stuff! I am pregnant! Isn't that like the ultimate trump card? Like no matter what you had to deal with today, at least no one was kicking your ribs FROM THE INSIDE! But if I take time to think about how hard it has to be to be on your feet for 10 straight hours, deal with coworkers who aren't getting along, and get yelled by angry people who are mad at you for nothing you did... I can feel compassion. I mean, yes I clean a lot of poop, and deal with a lot of nonsense, but really I can put on the tv and plop myself in front of the computer for a little while every day. I get blessed nap time, where I can do whatever I want for at least an hour or two. But I'm getting back into competition mode. It's not about how easy or hard my day is. It's about feeling what my husband is feeling. Being sensitive to what he's saying and thinking about how he feels. It doesn't matter what happened to me that day. Compassion is about the other person. Understand them, and serving them.
Compassion for my children... I think this is the area I need the most help. I keep in touch with a friend, Ashley from NJ (well we met in NJ, not that she's from NJ, but whatever this information is not important) via facebook and our blogs. She frequently mentions in her writing how hard it must be to be a little kid. How hard it must be to do all that growing, and to not have words for your emotions, and just how truly hard it is to grow up! I can tell she genuinely feels compassion for her children when they are tired, or grumpy, or even throwing a fit. I rarely ever think about how it feels to be 4. If I do, I'm usually thinking it must be pretty nice! Ya know, how we look back at childhood and how carefree it was. Well of course 4 year olds are not worrying about how to pay the bills, but they do have concerns and fears that are very real to them. Losing that McDonald's toy to Abigail, was like the equivalent of me losing my wallet, or something else valuable. Their little bodies and minds are going through so much. I'm sure it is stressful for them. I need to be better about putting myself in their minds, and thinking about how it feels to be that age.
Of course I was doing this to help grow closer to the Savior and that I can say has truly happened. I mean is there a greater example of "co-suffering" than the Atonement? Although I really can't completely wrap my mind around it, I know that somehow He knows me. And He knows my heart, and my suffering. And I know he's felt it. And He didn't just feel it, but He did something about it. He went let Himself be beaten and nailed to a cross and suffered a horrible death, so that I might live. So that the Plan of Salvation could move forward, and we could all return to live with our Father in heaven again. One thing I have never completely understood is why it had to happen that way. I am still not completely sure I get it. How does Christ dying help me? Why did the plan have to involve this sacrifice? Why can't repentance happen without it? I can still say sorry and try harder to be better. Why isn't that enough? I don't really have answers to these questions, but I have faith. I have faith that for whatever reason that was the Plan and the only way. And so I am grateful someone was willing to be that sacrifice. Someone who was the only option because he was the only Begotten. I am grateful for Christ's example of compassion, when he suffered in Gethsemane and then was crucified, for me.
No one has asked me to go that far in my compassion. All I need to do is see those around me and reach out and help however I can.