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The Influential Power of Compassion

By Katie Pelant, MAC, PLPC

 

Throughout my middle and high school years, I was involved and committed to my church youth group. As a result, in my junior year of high school, I was tapped to head up a middle school life group at church. My assignment was to lead a group of girls through their senior year. I led one group through their senior year and yet another group through their junior year.


While sitting in during sermons given each week, not only did I get to lead teens in a crucial time in their lives, I also got to take in the messages given and use them as a guide in my life as an adult.


Something I learned over my time serving, 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 continues to stand out was one about compassion and kindness.


There is a lot to be said about these two traits. Given only an hour each week to reflect with this group of girls, I wanted at least 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 can make a choice to love them and show compassion regardless.


Compassion is an 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 we can grow in and strengthen--if we so choose.


Growing in empathy can start with a little self reflection. Think back to a really difficult situation 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 who provided 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 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 does not always 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, we realize we have the powerful ability to influence someone we love to feel loved and not so alone. This feeling feels good. Being able to bring someone joy in their pain feels good, and there is 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 our identity.

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