How compassion needs to be cultivated in the Corona era
Compassion is not really an emotion that can be taught or ‘worked upon’. It is a quality of life that only arises as a byproduct, once you are at peace with your emotional pain.
- Total Shares
The Coronavirus pandemic has given rise to some interesting pan-global trends. Economies are reshaping for an uncertain future and businesses are desperately restructuring to emerge intact from the destruction the virus has caused to global consumerism. However, one of the most interesting trends is the change in collective human behaviour. Donning masks, washing hands and social distancing have suddenly become indispensable habits in our daily lives. These trivial discomforts have certainly caused human beings to tap into their reservoirs of resilience and patience. Meanwhile, pop culture has given a new twist to expressing compassion towards others during these difficult times.
While expressing compassion is unquestionably very important for the global community to band together under adversity, one would argue that we would do well to first take a subtler and perhaps more undesirable journey into our own past.
For many, introspection of their past is an uncomfortable idea, and understandably so. In the past, we may need to confront the bully in school who instilled in us a great sense of insecurity. We may need to revisit bad break-ups that broke our hearts into pieces and shattered our belief in loving relationships. We may also need to examine dysfunctional or toxic elements in our relationships, be it with family members, friends or co-workers. The list is endless. Needless to say, unpacking the past can be a very messy affair and we may not yet want to tangle with the mess. We may want to avoid it entirely. However, confronting the mess and beginning the process of alleviating one’s own pain can help one provide the most invaluable compassion to humanity.
During the lockdown, there has been an undeniable positive congregation of the human spirit and humanity’s love for itself has grown. (Photo: Reuters)
Compassion is not really an emotion that can be taught or ‘worked upon’. Contrary to how parents try to instil compassion in kids from an early age, it truly is a quality of life that only arises as a by-product, once you are at peace with your own emotional pain. Trying to force expression of compassion before you have dressed your own wounds is like putting the cart before the horse. Your expression may not be as impactful and you may run the risk of expressing a sort of “pseudo-compassion” to others.
This is certainly not to imply that by pausing for a moment, looking at the world around us and expressing compassion to those less fortunate, our compassion is necessarily superficial. During the lockdown, there has been an undeniable positive congregation of the human spirit and humanity’s love for itself has grown. Nonetheless, we should also pause for a moment and look within our own selves to begin the process of healing.
The ubiquitous stillness brought on by the worldwide lockdown is likely to never recreate itself in our lifetimes. What better opportunity than now to try and forgive those that hurt us, be honest about our own frailties and rein in our egos, in case they were set too loose by us in the first place. We may never be able to completely fix ourselves, nor should that be our intention. Human beings are unfinished works of art and the process of self-improvement is a lifelong endeavour. Regardless, there may be certain benefits of confronting our own demons as far as developing a stronger capacity for expressing compassion to others is concerned.
It is extremely difficult to express enduring compassion to others if you have not first expressed it to yourself. (Photo: Reuters)
Firstly, how can you do unto others that which you have not done unto yourself? As the famous saying goes — hurt people hurt people. So too does this concept apply to positive emotions. It is extremely difficult to express enduring compassion to others if you have not first expressed it to yourself.
Second, addressing and alleviating your own pain tends to subdue your ego, given that unaddressed pain is usually an essential ingredient of a bloated ego. When you are able to keep your ego and pride in check, you may no longer feel the need to be transactional in expressing your compassion, and will be able to offer it more freely to those who need it. As your own emotional suffering subsides, compassion, love and kindness will cease to be bartering tools, and transform into states of being. In this state, one may no longer yearn for approbation from society or even validation from oneself.
The pandemic has certainly shattered life, as we knew it. Thousands around the world have either lost loved ones, are suffering the infection in hospitals, or are buckling under the current economic hardships. They certainly deserve our compassion and help. However, if human beings are to truly be the vehicles that transport compassion to one another, the last thing we would want is for the vehicles themselves to be highly polluting. Although we may never be able to totally eliminate the pollutants, we should certainly try to curb their negative impact by performing routine maintenance of the vehicles.
As the world’s economies begin to gradually reopen and venture into a future wrought with unpredictability, one hopes that going forward, each one of us can retain some of the stillness that was brought on by the lockdown. Let us hope that it aids in the quest to heal ourselves and express lasting compassion, not only when humanity’s need is dire but also as a perennial strength that binds us together.