The word compassion is staring back at me, it’s searching me and I’m crumbling. I’ve known this day would arrive and I would have to pen something profound or deep but I can’t find anything even remotely meaningful inside my head.
So I asked my heart instead…
And my heart felt anger.
Anger at the mere mention of compassion as if to say to me, “Now you want to know how I feel?”
My heart has always understood compassion but my mind merely understands how to spell it.
I’ve discovered an invisible scale, a balance, inside my mind where apparently I subconsciously keep track of things. While my heart often begins with compassion my mind will take over and turn it into something selfish. Yes I love you, yes I will help you or listen to you, but my mind has some strict limits on how much it will allow my heart to give before my mind convinces me I should feel used and hurt.
I think everyone has a scale like this. Our minds and our hearts work in unison to make sure we are compassionate souls making a difference in other people’s lives. Our hearts are good at differentiating another person’s need while our intellect works out how much and what kind of help to give.
My heart is angry at me because my mind is – for lack of a better word – ignorant. In order to have compassion you have to sympathize with another human being (or a cause) and you must respond in some tangible way. My mind doesn’t like that idea. My mind doesn’t realize that compassion isn’t about how much you give or what you might get in return because my mind simply doesn’t understand love and so it can’t understand compassion. My mind is a bully and my heart is tired of taking a beating.
Most relationships are based on a series of gives and takes. The give and take can occur in a single transaction or over a period of time. I find I am most compassionate and most merciful when I know the transactions are short ones. The longer the period of time the more my mind gets involved. And my mind cares more about two way streets than my heart does.
So…can someone like me, with such a large heart and mind disconnect, learn to be more intellectually compassionate?
Some say if you are a good person it just comes naturally. If you are selfless and kind and truly care about other people then you are a very compassionate person. If this is true then I am NOT a compassionate person.
I was in line at McDonalds when I noticed the woman in the line next to me was crying. I had just ordered and was slightly in front of her to the side when I noticed her wiping her eyes and clearing her throat to order. I paid for her meal because there was nothing I could do. My heart told me just knowing I was acknowledging her pain would be enough.
I empathized with her tears as she sat alone in her car. I empathized, had sympathy, and I took action the only way I knew how. I wanted to say, “I saw you and I feel for you”. My mind would have told me to tend to my own business. My mind would have tried to measure whether or not they deserved it. My mind would try to talk my heart out of caring. But compassion is about good and nothing else and because my heart acted and not my mind I felt joy in the hope I could help her feel less alone. In a grand sense this is why I blog so openly.
I watched my friend Lizzi’s compassion vlog yesterday and it dawned on me that it takes a village to foster compassion. I told Lizzi I felt like I was always burning my villages to the ground. My mind convinces my heart that I don’t matter and that the things I have done and the time I have taken for others don’t matter. My mind tries to squeeze the compassion right out of my heart.
Sometimes it really does take a village of compassionate and merciful friends to give a heart enough strength to fight an irrational and selfish mind. I recently had someone tell me they thought I was full of light only to find out I was a “mean girl”. I didn’t argue because it is true. I am both.
“I have a heart and a mind, capable of both compassion and apathy, and whatever the feelings I have or the choices I make, I am a mixture.”~Lizzi Rogers
We all are.
There are moments when my heart wins and I am able to make a difference, and bring joy.
There are moments when my mind wins and I act selfishly and exhibit destructive behavior, whereas I need patience.
Compassion begets compassion, and I know I need it as much as anyone.
We all do.