Regular blog on the concepts of focus and self mastery, published every Tuesday.
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Empathy and Compassion

The definition of empathy in the Oxford Language dictionary is:

the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

The definition of compassion in the same dictionary is:

sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

What I want you to notice first and foremost is where the focus is in these two definitions.

The focus is not on what the person is doing. It has nothing to do with actions. Actions are not mentioned in these two definitions. The focus is on how the person is feeling. The focus is on emotional pain. That matters because that is where your focus should also be when you are trying to be compassionate and empathetic towards others.

As humans we focus too strongly on what people are doing. We take actions far too seriously. The actions distract us so much that we become unable to be empathetic or compassionate towards other people.

A human being is a complicated creature comprised of not just actions, but also thoughts and feelings that are informing those actions. We tend to discount the thoughts and feelings of others when we don’t like their actions. Why? Because we become offended by the actions of others. We are easily triggered by the actions of others. We react quickly, and often without thinking, to the actions of others.

We’ve gotten to an interesting place in society. What we have started to tell people is that they can think and feel whatever they want, they just can’t share it and they can’t express it through their actions. Keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself at all times, especially if it bothers somebody else. Don’t offend anybody. Don’t step on anybody’s toes. Don’t bother anybody. Keep your thoughts, feelings, and actions to yourselves. Just conform and don’t be a problem.

We have a large division in our society right now. We keep trying to shut the other side down. I don’t like your thoughts. I don’t like your opinions. Your opinions offend me. Your opinions trigger me and I want you to keep your opinions to yourself. Your actions trigger me and offend me. Stop doing what you’re doing.

When we react this way to other people, it means we are taking on their stuff. The idea that you’re offended simply means that you’re taking on their opinions or actions as your own. You’re bothered by it because you took it on. If you stopped taking it on you wouldn’t be bothered by it anymore.

Not taking it on means you don’t get offended by it, you stop judging it, you stop paying attention to it. You just leave it be and you recognize the pain behind the action instead. That offers you the ability to find compassion and empathy. You’re no longer distracted by the actions of others.

It’s up to you to shift your focus so that you can see things clearly. I talk about focus all the time. When we’re talking about people doing things out of pain, your focus has to shift to the emotion that might be behind the action because that’s where compassion and empathy are found.

Where did your need to defend yourself from other people come from?

Why are you so bothered by what other people are doing that you can’t see the pain behind what they are doing?

Compassion and empathy focus solely on feelings/emotions. They do not focus on actions or behavior at all.

You don’t have to like what the other person is doing. You don’t have to agree with what the other person is doing. Those things should not affect your ability to be compassionate or empathetic and if they do, that’s on you to work through within yourself. It is not on the other person to shift their behavior to something you’re okay with first. It’s on you to shift your focus away from their behavior so that you can find empathy and compassion anyway.

The arguments that you have with what I’m offering you come from your ego. Your ego wants to defend itself. The ego wants to put in boundaries. The ego wants to judge behavior as good or bad. The ego wants consequences and justice. The ego by itself doesn’t have the ability to be compassionate or empathetic. It is up to you to override the ego so that you can offer compassion and empathy anyway. Remember, you are not your ego.

Your ego comes with your human form. It’s a function of being human. It helps you create a personality and an identification with your physical body while you’re in it. It is part of how you show up in the world. Your role is to recognize when the strategies of the ego aren’t helpful and then override those.

The ego isn’t bad. The ego isn’t something that needs to be transcended. The ego is part of your physical form and our job is to learn to work with it. We don’t need to get rid of it, we just need to recognize when it offers us strategies that cause pain or aren’t helpful and change those. The ego, unfortunately, is not particularly helpful when it comes to empathy and compassion because the ego is too quick to judge and defend. Those strategies of judgment and defending the self prevent us from being compassionate and empathetic.

At the basis of the problem for us, is the judgment of the action. We are very quick to judge the actions of others. When we do that it immediately brings the ego into play. Now suddenly we’re on the defense, we’re needing boundaries, we’re walking away from people, we find ourselves suddenly unable to be compassionate or empathetic because of the original judgement of the action.

“But their actions are wrong.”

Yep. Your judgment of the action as wrong is making you defend that idea. You now defend the problem of your inability to be compassionate and empathetic in certain situations by continuing to defend your judgment of the original action.

Let go of the judgment of the action as bad or wrong.

When you learn to drop the judgment you will then be able to be compassionate and empathetic regardless of the actions of other people.

That is what true empathy and compassion look like.

Is that easy?

Of course not. But that is the goal. That is what we need to be working towards. It requires constant self-awareness to be able to do. You need to be aware of your own pain and triggers. You need to be able to recognize judgment when it shows up and override it. You need to be able to recognize that you don’t need to defend yourself from other people’s pain. You need to be able to not take on other people’s stuff. You need to be able to recognize that what other people are doing has nothing to do with you. It is fully about their own pain. When you can focus there, then you can find empathy and compassion every time.

For as long as you focus on actions, defending yourself, and judgment, compassion and empathy will be difficult to offer on a consistent basis.

If you’re only able to offer compassion and empathy when the actions of others aren’t bothering you, that’s something you need to work through within yourself. Your ability to be empathetic and compassionate should not have anything to do with the actions of other people – ever.

Love to all.



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