Sympathy. Pity. Concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Mercy. Grace. Forgiveness. These are things that seem in short supply these days. In a word, we’re talking about compassion.

Have you ever met someone who was all heart, whose very presence brightened the world? And thought, wow, we could use a lot more of that!

Some people are born with the gift and ability to be compassionate. 

They’re concerned about people, life, and the condition of the earth. 

They care. 

But it’s more than a fading sentiment. They do something about it. They take action. They’re engaged. They make a difference. And we wish we could be more like them.

While some are born inherently with the gift of compassion, others learn it. Here are ways to train yourself to be more compassionate in a world that desperately needs more kindness, understanding, and love. 

Compassion as a Value

Compassion 101: If you want to be a more compassionate, start being more compassionate. Profound. 

Just practice being a little bit more compassionate every day. Soften your heart. Look around. Be open. 

Practice being compassionate until it becomes a habit…until it becomes familiar and necessary; automatic. 

Perhaps you balance every act of self-compassion with an act of compassion for someone else. And the place you should start is with you; just don’t stay there very long. Branch out.

But, begin with self-compassion. 

Being self-compassionate makes life less burdensome; each day is a little brighter; life becomes easier and happier. 

Here are some ways to practice self-compassion:

  • That negative voice in your head? Yeah, that one… well, when a negative thought pops into your mind, immediately neutralize it by challenging it with something hopeful, optimistic, positive, or by identifying one or two good traits about yourself. Just do it—every single time. Counteract every negative thought with a positive one. 

When you find yourself being hard on yourself, remind yourself how you’ve overcome difficulties before – that you are determined, resourceful, and are making progress.  

  • Acknowledge yourself on a job well done! You’re making a difference! Let go of fear, guilt, shame, or embarrassment. Honor your achievements just like you do for your best friends. And remember to be a best friend to yourself.
  • Cut yourself some slack. You won’t always get it right. No one does. It’s been said that we don’t win or lose; we win or learn. Don’t let anything in your life or what’s happened to you go to waste. Cherish your life. Learn. Adapt. Grow. Appreciate your life and journey. And if you can’t appreciate it right now, at least try to respect it.  
  • Treat yourself to something special. Do something nice for yourself. Give yourself a gift. Embrace and celebrate you! Show yourself that YOU matter to YOU!
  • Have you ever noticed how you can be nicer to strangers than you are to yourself? Being nice to strangers is an admirable trait. Now, start being that way to yourself. Speak to yourself and treat yourself like you do to your best friends.

Start practicing self-compassion. 

Self-compassion isn’t selfish; it’s necessary for you to be able to give back to others. Once your cup is overflowing with compassion, it’ll overflow and spill into other people’s lives. You have so much more to give. 

“Do Unto Others…” Being Compassionate

  • Do you take time to notice and acknowledge throughout the day when others are being compassionate to you? No? Then it’s time to start. Take notes. Journal. Study and model compassionate people.  
  • Join an accountability group to create opportunities for you to practice the habit of being compassionate to yourself and others.
  • Slow down during your busy day to take time and ask yourself when, where and how you can show more compassion in specific situations.
  • Here’s a great one, but it isn’t easy. Do this, and you’ll be rowing strenuously against the tide: Try not to react to someone who is unkind or harsh to you. Instead, take a deep breath, smile, and ask them if they are okay. What if their negative mindset is really a cry for help? What if they’re worried, afraid, or hurting? What if they don’t intend to be harsh but are just trying to get your attention because they need someone (that’d be you) to listen or help – or acknowledge the difficult stuff they’re going through!

Compassion as a Habit

Being aware of where, how, and when you can show more compassion to oneself and others is the building block of creating compassion as a habit. 

  • Practice self-compassion by being kind, loving, and gracious to yourself.
  • And be mindful of where, how, and when you can offer compassion to others often – not just in response to a tragedy or natural disaster.
  • Notice, acknowledge and appreciate when people are compassionate to you; model them.

Take on these practices, and before you know it compassion will become a natural part of your life, and you will be one of those people whose very presence brightens the world, of whom people will say, wow, we need more people like you.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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