“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” –
The return we get – let’s start out thinking about ourselves because that’s what we tend to do anyway (put ourselves first) – from kindness is immeasurable. Never mind the benefit we can provide to others.
Then why is compassion so rare?
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” –
In a word: pride.
Pride gets in our way. It’s the kryptonite for everybody.
That’s another word you may be better able to relate with. We put too much emphasis on ourselves and not enough on others. Culture fuels it, too.
If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?
I’m even guilty, having been a longtime fan of Jack Welch’s statement, “Control your destiny or somebody else will.” I’m re-thinking that these days, just so you know.
In one context (perhaps others) it’s wise. It means, “be responsible.” Don’t wait for somebody to do it for you. Don’t sit back, doing nothing, hoping others will rescue you. That’s not a good or wise way to go through life.
But on the other hand, it diminishes the value others can bring. It may spark us to isolate ourselves thinking we alone have to do it all. And that makes us critical of others because we’ve now elevated our own view of ourselves. We’re clearly the most important person on the planet – in our minds.
That’s why judgment is easy. We can easily and quickly spot the deficiencies in others while our glaring weaknesses can go unnoticed. Your weaknesses make me feel better about myself, but that better feeling is like an illegal drug. It’s short-term gain with long-term pain.
It doesn’t make me a better human. It does nothing to help you. It won’t improve me. Instead, it stunts my growth and helps me remain stuck in my self-centeredness.
Then, you’re gonna go post terrific pics of your vacation or some other trip. I’m gonna see your Instagram and Facebook posts. Jealousy is going to soar. My life isn’t so grand. I can’t afford to make that trip. My life doesn’t measure up. Bitterness and resentment settle into a comfortable place in my mind.
How am I supposed to exhibit compassion when your life appears so much better than mine?
Again, it boils down to pride and self. I’m looking at your life – and all the other lives around me – through the lens of my own life. The constant state of comparison prevents me from feeling or displaying compassion.
Compassion doesn’t cost. It gives. To everybody.
Pride’s payoff isn’t nearly as great. But pride promises the big payday. Which is why we can so easily lean into it. By putting the attention on ourselves maybe we’re deluded into thinking others will pay us more attention. Self-promotion and all that.
This isn’t about avoiding putting our best foot forward. Or for those comfortable doing so, it’s not about avoiding self-promotion. The issue is whether or not we’ll incorporate compassion into our daily habits.
Humility and compassion provide fuel for so many positive things in our lives – and in the lives of others with whom we interact. Connection and communication are greatly enhanced. Both are hindered when compassion is missing. That alone ought to make us think more soberly about how we can increase compassion in our lives.
Compassion is missing when these qualities are absent:
Guess what else is missing when these qualities are absent?
Team performance. Group performance. High performing groups and teams tend to always have the same traits that fuel compassion. That doesn’t mean they have no conflict or disagreement. It means they can work through it in a productive way that doesn’t tear them apart.
I regularly ask people about extending grace to others. In just about every conversation it quickly becomes clear that people are reluctant to give grace (compassion) to others. Especially when there’s conflict or disagreement.
Yet that’s when compassion is needed most.
When things are smooth and easy…well, we don’t have to work very hard. It’s when there’s disagreement or conflict when we need to amp up the compassion.
Lest you think this is about nothing more than kindness – which should be ample reason for doing it – there’s a practical reason behind deploying more compassion.
Compassion is the missing link when understanding goes out the window. Or when understanding seems almost impossible. Or when people stop seeking understanding.
We shut down. We refuse to listen. We dig deeper into our position.
“I’m dug into what I think.” A common statement heard when a person has made up their mind they won’t exercise compassion. You may as well walk away because that person will never understand what you say or how you feel. They’re disinterested in learning more. Growth and improvement aren’t as important to them as their pride.
If you find the performance of your group or team faltering, gauge the compassion. If it’s lacking then work to elevate it by stressing the high value of it. When you begin to elevate compassion you’ll find understanding going up, too. Along with it, performance. Test it and I guarantee things will improve.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!