Monday, October 7, 2013

Universal Spiritual Principles for Success: Compassion

Today is Monday, October 7, 2013.

This is the third in a series of articles about eight universal spiritual principles for success in any occupation of life. Previously, I wrote about humility and purity.  Today's spiritual principle is compassion. 

Compassion is defined as empathy or understanding of the suffering of others, but compassion has to start with ourselves.  We must learn to give ourselves some slack when we are feeling stressed or under pressure, when we've made a mistake that we feel badly about, or when we have been through a traumatic experience.  In order to do this, we must be in touch with our own feelings, and acknowledge them.  Once we have done this, we can begin to deal with anger, frustration, or impatience about our own affairs, so that we will not transfer these feelings to the people that we deal with in our working lives.  Self-compassion is especially important for people in high-stress jobs who deal with the public, such as teachers, firefighters and police officers, in order to prevent job-related burnout.

When we extend compassion toward others, we recognize that they come to us with their own anger, frustration and impatience, and that their feelings don't necessarily have to do with us.  If their words or actions are colored by these negative feelings, our challenge is not to react negatively in response.  Rather, we must see clearly where they may be coming from and choose a response that will not exacerbate the situation. 

It's clear that this doesn't always happen.  There have been disturbing stories in the last few months about an old man who was made to lie on the ground, then get up without the aid of his cane, a woman who was tasered even though she told officers she was having a diabetic attack, a young woman who was shot because she was acting improperly in the throes of postpartum depression, and a young, emotionally disturbed man who was beaten to death for resisting police officers.  There have also been stories recently of teachers who slapped or verbally abused children.  A couple of years ago, there was a story about a Native American man who was abused while he was in the hospital for a surgical procedure.  All of these situations could have been avoided had the people involved had more compassion.

Although compassion is commonly thought to have an emotional component to it, compassion coupled with detachment from emotion is actually the most effective.  Health care workers have many chances to practice detached compassion in the course of a day.  They understand and empathize with their patients who are in pain, but remain emotionally in balance so that they are able to respond, especially in emergency situations, when it is important to remain clearheaded.  Teachers also have many chances to practice detached compassion with students who come from homes where they may be abused or neglected.  People who handle insurance claims and customer relations departments also have chances to practice detached compassion, as do 911 emergency dispatchers, firefighters, police officers, and those who operate homeless shelters.  

Tomorrow: integrity.  :-)

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