The literal translation of the word compassion is to “suffer together.” There is no shortage of suffering in our world. If we are honest with ourselves, we are all the walking wounded.
Knowing our own pain, and appreciating when others have shared a shoulder to lean on, a listening ear, an open heart, and words rooted in love, why do we not always “suffer with” when others are clearly hurting?
I believe we might misunderstand the intention of others. Perhaps we become frustrated and tired, and in return we are hurt by those who are hurtful yet wounded themselves.
None of this excuses hurtful behavior, but it does invite us to try to understand.
As the Prayer of St Francis so gently reminds us, may we not so much be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.
Compassion is not about being right or wrong. It isn’t about absolute truth. It is about suffering with a fellow wounded companion on life’s journey.
We are already conditioned to judge, to feel a range of emotions that may include some negativity. Stay with that and process those emotions.
Then, reflect with compassion as the foundation. Ask yourself:
- Why might someone act in this hurtful way?
- How might we better understand their wounds? And even if we cannot gain that insight, can we assume it is present and perhaps quite powerful- even on a subconscious level.
Again, this is not excusing poor behavior.
It is simply reminding us to be a compassionate creation. With this as our drive and motivation, the world and our selves are better for it- and hopefully, so is the world of those who might be suffering as they are just as misunderstood and wounded as we can be on this shared journey.