Compassion means many things to many people. But for me, these three concepts can be world changing: kindness, understanding, and respect. There’s so much in the world that divides us, with the many political and religious ideologies that can and do lead to war. Then there are the smaller views in the world: when a child is bullied at school for being different, when a dad is passed over for a promotion because his own hard work had been credited by another, and then there’s the mom who is depressed at home unable to get out of bed. Her family thinks she is weak and lazy and don’t understand her. Real human problems create inner conflict inside ourselves which can only get worse if not dealt with. Many people tend to act the same way in which they’re treated, whether they mean to or not. Disrespect is met with disrespect, anger with anger, violence with violence, and so on.
“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” ~Steve Maraboli
There are many families who don’t learn how to communicate effectively. The parents may lack in interpersonal skills, or they may not understand personal boundaries. They might use anger and punishment instead of kindness and understanding when their child is failing in school. If a child is a poor listener, they might get scolded instead of taught how to listen. Perhaps the parents weren’t listened to as children so they didn’t become effective listeners themselves. These same parents probably have poor self-esteem and it can affect their children. So how do these kids learn to communicate effectively? Where is the love and the trust? Self-Love is necessary in order to be able to love another. Self-Love is developed through being loved and nurtured by those outside themselves. It can also be developed through professional help if a person decides to go that route. But many do not because of the stigma associated with psychiatry.
We all have mental health, there is no doubt about that. We have physical health and then we have mental health. But are they separate things, really? Not at all! It’s about the overall health of our bodies. Physical health can affect mental health and vice versa. Who then do we go to if our family is not effectively teaching these social skills? How do we learn compassion for others if others are not compassionate with us?
If there wasn’t the stigma against psychiatry, and going to a psychiatrist or therapist, then perhaps more people would get professional help. But there is the stigma. Not only that, there is the cost involved in getting that help. Many can’t afford it. Also, going for professional help might bring out fear in the individual. What if I am found to have a mental illness, they might think to themselves. What if they think I’m crazy? What if I were one of those people? It can’t be me! They themselves don’t understand mental illness. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to have a mental illness for things to go wrong. When things do go wrong, you need to talk to someone. Please, don’t hold it in. There are others who you can talk to, like teachers, guidance counselors, physicians, and clergy. People who have been there are many, and they’ll listen. Writing in a journal can also be effective.
People need to be educated about mental health so that they can get the help they need. And if people were more educated in mental health and psychiatry, then those persons with mental illness would be accepted for who they are and not condemned for their illnesses. What if this education began in K12? What if there were small classes led by certified instructors who teach coping techniques, interpersonal skills, relationships, trust, self-love, self-respect, and self-compassion? There are many folks who’ve been there and can volunteer to pass it on. Once the child learns, they can pass it on to their families. Usually when one person changes, it has a domino effect. Compassionate people can bring about compassion in others.
World Peace. What a concept! But there is so much need in the world and not enough compassion. It is so overwhelming! Nations can’t agree. There is never enough money and always too much debt. Stress levels are high and rarely enough time. There is much to overcome. Overcoming gives us strength. We’ve done it before, why not again? We can’t go at it alone, we need each other. People need other people. All anyone needs is love, respect, and understanding. Peace begins with the individual. And maybe one day it will happen! World Peace. A world without war and violence.
Kindness can go a long way. So if you run into someone who is having a bad day, show an act of gentle kindness. Be there, and just listen. You might be surprised. The person who receives the compassion just might be yourself.