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Empathy, Kindness, and Compassion; How They Are All Connected By: Katie Pelant, PLPC

For many years through middle and high school, I was involved in the youth group at my church. Because of my commitment, I was given the opportunity during my junior year of high school to lead a Middle School Life Group at my church. I led my first group of girls through their senior year, and then started leading another middle school group through their junior year. While sitting in during sermons given each week, I was not only able to use the messages given to help lead teens during a crucial time in their lives, but I was also able to apply those messages to my life as an adult. 


One thing that I learned over my time serving in this way was, whether you’re a teen or an adult, messages about traits such as empathy, kindness, compassion, and love for yourself and others all apply the same way in everyday life. How a person expresses these traits may look slightly different in relation to their age, but the simple truth is, we are all capable of learning and doing these things to better the daily lives of ourselves and others. 


One of the lessons that stands out to me most was one about compassion and kindness.  


There is a lot to be said about both compassion and kindness, but since I only had an hour to reflect with this group of girls during our time together, I knew I wanted this one idea to stick:  


We never know what someone else is going through.  


While it is not our job to change someone's negative behavior, or to understand everything a person says or does, we do have the choice to love them and show compassion regardless.  


Compassion is the act that comes from a heart of empathy. Empathy can be easily defined as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, or feeling what someone else feels. If motivated enough by this feeling that arises, this could then lead to the act of compassion, which is choosing to take action in any way within your control that could potentially relieve this person’s pain or whatever strong emotion they are experiencing.  


It is important to keep in mind that this is an awareness that we can grow in and strengthen, if we choose to. Growing in empathy can start with a little self reflection. Think back to a really difficult situation that life has thrown at you. Once you have placed yourself back in that memory, begin to ask yourself, “When I was suffering in this, how did it feel when someone came alongside me and chose to shoulder this burden with me?” Maybe you had a loved one that leant a listening ear for as long as you needed to vent. Maybe someone allowed you to let a vulnerable wall down and you felt comfortable enough to cry, and maybe they even cried with you. Or maybe, someone simply smiled at you or said hello when you thought no one truly saw you. Even though your painful situation didn’t suddenly disappear, are you beginning to remember the slight relief that you may have felt when you realized that you weren’t alone in your pain?  


Showing empathy and compassion doesn’t always have to be as big as crying with someone or spending a whole evening with them guiding them through their sorrow. It could be a simple smile or a “Good morning” text message that provides the feeling of connectedness or companionship.  


It doesn’t take much to choose to love others. And the remarkable thing about choosing to love and be compassionate toward others, is that it not only helps someone else feel relieved and supported, but it also starts to better shape our hearts.  


When we look outside of ourselves to see what others are going through more often, we realize that we have the powerful ability to influence someone we love to feel loved and not alone. This feeling feels good. Being able to bring someone joy in their pain feels good, and there’s something about the way that feels within us that drives us to want to keep doing it. Slowly, feeling empathetic toward someone and showing them compassion is no longer such a choice. It becomes part of who we are.  

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