How Can Compassion Serve as an Antidote To Fear?
I feared getting close to others as I was growing up. It wasn’t because I was afraid of being physically hurt by them. Rather, I can remember often feeling so small in front of others, like the tiniest, most insignificant baby cub among a pack of mighty wolfs.
Eventually, I learned to cope with this fear by transforming it into concealed judgment and distrust of others, using my academic performance as proof that I was better than most, at least intellectually. And in my teenage mind, this was all that really mattered in life.
I’m not sure what produced this anxiety in me at such an early age. I think that struggling to learn English while living in this country (I came to the United States at age six ) allowed self-doubt to start growing within me. I also suspect that my mother’s own insecurities were passed along to me through my daily interactions with her.
What I do know is this: my experience has affected the way I view relationships, and I have never really cared to pursue close friendships wholeheartedly.
If you’re reading this, and can see a shadow of your own experience in mine, you understand how painful it is to navigate through life with these feelings. That’s why I am grateful to have found a powerful antidote that pushes me to sidestep these default pessimistic feelings I so often find ill comfort in. This antidote is compassion.
For me, compassion is looking at a person’s flaws — their real flaws, as well as those I have ascribed to them by virtue of my own warped thoughts — and determining that these flaws stem from circumstances in that person’s life rather than being a reflection of their character.
I don’t propose blanket forgiveness of all disgraceful behavior, and I understand that there are a some people in the world who are truly negative and dangerous. What I’m suggesting is that we learn to see one another outside the lens of judgement, and to know that at the very core, we are all the same.
Being compassionate can be difficult, of course, but the rewards are tremendous. Think about practicing compassion just like exercising: It takes much mental effort just to put your exercise clothes on and make it to the gym. Once you’re on that treadmill, though, and especially by the end of the workout, you feel energized.
Compassion works much the same.
I choose to embrace and advocate for compassion for the following reasons:
People are what give meaning to our life
This may sound obvious, but I feel that we can easily forget it. There is absolutely no way we can be happy if we are not surrounded by others, and allowing negative thoughts to brew inside our mind about a particular person will impact our openness to people in general. Compassion will strengthen your connection to others.
Having Contempt For Others Will Only Make You Miserable
Think of contempt for others as the poison that you drink hoping that other person dies. For example, I had a coworker who I did’n’t particularly enjoy crossing paths with because of her attitude toward me. I dreaded even thinking that I had to ask her a question or request a favor of her.
I had to force myself to change the negative thoughts toward that person, because these thoughts only made my experience at work unpleasant. I decided to start seeing the person with compassion, considering that her off-putting attitude was perhaps a result of the stress from the job.
Others Will Learn To See You With Compassion
As much as we would like to think so, we are not always going be perfect. We will stumble often, and we will need someone to help us get up and move forward. The more compassion we foster and project, the more compassion we will attract to ourselves. The opposite is also true. The more negative thoughts you have aboutothers, the more negative thoughts others will have about you.
Feelings of fear, irritation, contempt, or even hatred can embed themselves in our mind if we fail to plant the seed of compassion. Even if you have never really struggled connecting with others, it can help to examine your daily interactions with people, and to see how much more compassion you can afford to bring into your everyday life.