The Power of Compassion

I do not believe that compassion is inherent to us as human beings, but rather something that has to be cultivated over time. From my experience, compassion is one of the biggest healers there is, and far bigger than many of the challenges each of us face. Some would argue it is bigger than all of it.

How do you define compassion? I believe it is defined by our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Something about someone else’s experience resonates with us, and therefore with our own experience. This doesn’t mean I know what it is like to be someone else, only that I strive to understand to the best of my ability. We are all in it together, and as a person on this earth, you have either experienced loss, or you are going to.

I do not have to have the exact experience as someone else to practice the art of compassionate presence, and if I can put myself in someone else’s shoes, I had better be able to do that for myself.

Many of my clients understand the value of putting compassion into practice. We cannot only deepen relationships with others, as those around us feel our care and our desire to understand, but we can also deepen with ourselves, as we connect to our own stories without self-judgement.

Carrie, a patient of mine, talked about how she used to take everything personally. She felt that even the smallest slight was a personal attack from not only close friends, but also from people she didn’t even know. Examples ranged from a friend showing up fifteen minutes late to dinner, to a stranger cutting her off on the freeway. Although these types of interactions were annoying, they were far from being the personal attacks she so often described to me in our sessions. However, based on her previous experience, it made sense as to why she perceived these interactions as unsafe, or threatening.

Carrie had been bullied in school as a child, and emotionally abused by both of her parents for several years while growing up. She had memories of being taunted on the playground blended with memories of being ridiculed, put down, and criticized mercilessly by her parents at the same time. Although she was an adult now, safe, capable of setting boundaries, and had a great circle of support, it seemed as if her childhood lens had never fully changed. She continued to feel like other people were always out to get her, and seemed to always be waiting for the next shoe to drop. Knowing that this had caused pain for her, and in her relationships, we discussed how compassion could help her change the way she viewed the world, along with her place in it.

As we talked about the importance of compassion, she began to soften. She not only started the practice outwardly, but also started to practice having compassion for herself. Usually a harder practice, self-compassion required her to go gently, to forgive herself when she slipped back into old habits, and to also remind herself that her struggle was the result of childhood adversity. She changed her lens, and was even able to take compassion back to her childhood as she talked about her parents having grown up in abusive alcoholic homes as a way to understand their behavior, and to find compassion for why they treated her so poorly.

When interacting with others, she became curious about those around her. She worked to find proof that people were attacking her, and she began to come up short again and again as she played detective. She began to realize that even when she felt someone was upset, that most of the time, whatever was going on actually had nothing to do with her.

Her compassion practice had allowed her to stretch. Focusing on others instead of herself allowed her to let down defenses, deepen relationships, and communicate care to others and to herself.

Compassion brings expansion to every experience. Certainly not the only healer, but absolutely one of the more powerful ones. You cannot be open, and closed at the same time. Expand out.

Clear Reflections

  • How do you define compassion?
  • How do you practice compassion for others? For you?
  • How can you stay curious about other’s experience? About yours?
  • How could compassion practice help you become more resilient?
  • How do you expand out?

Speak Your Mind


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