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Compassion In Action

Compassion In Action

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Compassion In Action
by Rev. Elizabeth Rowley,
Spiritual Director
May 3, 2019

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary the words pity, sympathy, empathy, and compassion are listed as synonyms for one another.  It’s vital for the spiritually awakened heart and mind to have a clear distinction of the definition of each word.

To feel pity is to feel sorrow for one’s suffering, distress, or unhappiness.  In the movie Rocky III, the character Clubber Lang, played by Mr. T was interviewed before the big fight and asked if he hated Rocky Balboa.  He said, “No I don’t hate Balboa, I pity the fool.”  This was because he felt bad for how much Rocky was about to suffer.

To feel sympathy is to understand the feelings of another with the ability to commiserate.  As in, “Oh yes, I understand you feeling that way.”  You might offer a friend a Hallmark card or a thoughtful gift to bring comfort in times of sorrow.

Empathy takes sympathy deeper in that you can now walk a mile in another person’s shoes. You acknowledge your shared humanity with another and can imagine what it must be like for the person to be experiencing what they are. You’re able to tune into another person’s emotional experience and feel what they are feeling.

Compassion is the next level. Compassion is selfless love.  It is the feeling that you will do something for someone even if it’s not in your self-interest.  Compassion is love in action. It’s walking a mile in another person’s shoes and then doing something about it. It’s not a syrupy, sweet way of interacting with others.  For the spiritually awakened heart, it is a selfless love that expresses as it needs to. Sometimes what’s called for is tough love and other times it’s a soothing balm of comforting love. Either way, the motive is always love.

We are all interconnected, and come from the same Source. If we can live, move, and have our being from this place of oneness, recognizing and remembering that we are all part of the human family, can you imagine what else is possible?  I believe we are called to take inspired, compassionate action wherever possible.

In Hindu mythology, there is a popular, well-adored deity known as Lord Hanuman, the monkey God.  Hanuman is adored for his embodiment of love, devotion, intelligence, duty, compassion, strength, courage, and loyalty. Hanuman was deeply devoted to Lord Rama whose brother was severely injured in a great battle and about to die.  Hanuman flew off to search high up in the Himalayas for a life-saving herb.  Not knowing which herb was needed, he brought the entire mountain of Dronagiri back to him in one hand.

How might you bring compassion in action to the world today?  You don’t have to carry an entire mountain to someone.  Maybe it’s a smile, a ride, a phone call, or a random act of kindness. Perhaps it’s self-compassion which motivates you to speak kind and loving words to yourself and others.

And so it is.

Rev. Elizabeth Rowley

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