Practicing Compassion

Our Unitarian Universalist congregations covenant together to affirm and promote 7 principles, one of which is “Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.” Too often we focus on the justice and equity component of this principle and forget the compassion piece. Too often we focus on “Justice and equity” while leaving out “compassion.”

In seminary one of my professors challenged us to find compassion in those moments when we were most frustrated. He shared with us that whenever someone cut him off on the highway he would take a deep breath and consider for a moment that perhaps they were in more need of the space in front of him than he was; that perhaps they were rushing to the hospital or to pick up their lost child. He invited us to find a way to connect with a different narrative of their story than what our initial instinct might write. At first I thought this was ridiculous – I couldn’t change the way I felt and acted just by thinking their story might be different than the one I made up in my head. But I quickly discovered it isn’t ridiculous, it actually works. And while I still find myself needing to take a deep breath sometimes, I do find that my life is more robust and spirit-filled when I connect with my sense of compassion.

Author Karen Armstrong writes, “Compassion is not an option. It’s the key to our survival.” I agree with her. Compassion is what helps us to be forgiving in moments of anger and frustration. Compassion can motivate us to help those in need. Compassion can build and enhance our relationships with one another. But how do we live a compassionate life and how do we invite our family and friends to do the same? In her book 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life Armstrong offers us this roadmap:

1.    Learn About Compassion
2.    Look at Your Own World
3.    Compassion for Yourself
4.    Empathy
5.    Mindfulness
6.    Action
7.    How Little We Know
8.    How Should We Speak to One Another?
9.    Concern for Everybody
10.    Knowledge
11.    Recognition
12.    Love Your Enemies

I invite you and your family to join me in living out our faith. It won’t always be easy, but as Armstrong says, “It’s the key to our survival.”

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Published in: on 1 March 2014 at 20.34  Leave a Comment  

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