How important is compassion?
Human compassion is one of the most important things in the world.
As the Dalai Lama quote goes:“We can live without religion. We cannot live without human compassion”. Click To Tweet
Random acts of kindness are the most enjoyable things in the world. Just the look on a stranger’s face when you do something amazingly kind for seemingly no reason… it’ pretty amazing.
But why is compassion so good?
The reasons are plentiful.
My motivation here is to inspire people to be more compassionate. If you share that passion, please share this article on Facebook and Twitter.
What is compassion ? A psychological definition.
What exactly is compassion and how is it different to altruism and empathy? Because there is a link between those things. A highly empathetic person is far more likely to be compassionate. Compassion is also a lot like kindness (and kindness is very important too).
So what precisely is compassion?
Compassion is often confused with empathy. Empathy is an emotional response to other people’s feelings. Someone else feels sad, we feel sad for them. It’s an emotional mirror between two people, and it creates real feelings in us. That’s empathy.
Compassion is different. The best definition of compassion is that it is empathy plus the desire to help. The important thing is that you don’t just feel the emotions of another person, you also want to help them because of those emotions. You can read more about how compassion is different to empathy on Greater Good.
Health Benefits of Compassion
A whole wealth of scientific research shows that compassion is very good for your health and well-being.
In fact, compassion may have played a pivotal role in our survival as a species.
Positive Psychology founder Martin Seligman tells us that connecting with others in a meaningful way [being compassionate] improves physical and mental health and will helps prevent diseases. 
It is fact that people who are compassionate live longer lives. 
Here’s why compassion is healthy:
Have you ever noticed how it feels better to be the person giving something feels better than receiving something? Brain-imaging tests by the National Institutes of Health show that when you give something you activate the pleasure centres of your brain. Giving even makes you feel loved.
In one test, two groups of people were given money. One group was told to spend the money on themselves. The other half were told to spend the money on other people. The groups were then studied. And the results unanimously showed that spending money on other people feels better than spending money on yourself.
This even true for kids to. University of British Columbia did a similar test on children. They were told to either have a treat themselves or to give it to someone else. And almost universally the kids who gave their treat to another kid felt better than those who had their own treat.
One way to do this is to make ethical investments.
More health benefits of compassion:
- Helps us to be non-judgmental
- Makes us more accepting of other people
- Gives us understanding and appreciation for how other people feel
- Makes us better listeners
- Improves social skills
- Helps stop anger
- Improves inner peace
- Creates a more harmonious atmosphere in group settings.
- Compassion at work improves productivity.
- Basically, makes you a better person, don’t you think?
The Historical Importance Of Compassion
The world would not be what it is today if it weren’t for some very special people who chose to live compassionate lives.
Compassion is the most important things in the world, historically. Consider these facts.
During the Holocaust, German industrialist and spy Oskar Schindler was a member of the Nazi party. He risked his own life to employ 1200 Jews in his enamelware and ammunition factories. His love and kindness is a prime example of the beauty of compassion, and even led to one of the most touching movies in history in Schindler’s List, a movie which will move even a cold stone to warm tears.
Abraham Lincoln was another man who embodied compassion, bringing about the abolishment of slavery. Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Mother Theresa…. When you look back at the history of the world, it’s not the ultra wealthy or the glamorous celebrities that we remember. It’s the people who sacrificed themselves to make a difference in the world. It’s the people who embodied the most important of traits: compassion.
Spiritual and religious importance of compassion
In Theravada Buddhism, living through Karuna (or living through compassion) is seen as the key to attaining great happiness in life. It is one of the four “divine abodes” (brahmavihāra), along with loving kindness (Pāli: mettā), sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha). It is considered impossible to become a bodhisattva (one who has achieved enlightenment) without achieving a high level of Karuna.
- The best book on Buddhist compassion is the excellent Kindfulness by Ajanh Brahm [AMAZON].
In Jainism, Karuna is one of the four reflections of universal friendship, the others being amity (maitri), appreciation (pramoda) and equanimity (madhyastha). These four reflections are used in Jainism to stop the influx of karma.
5 Ways to increase compassion
Loving Kindness Meditation:
Loving Kindness Meditation is one of the most important meditation techniques in the world. It is used to develop equanimity and universal love for all. And it will naturally heighten your levels of compassion. I’ve created a complete guide to Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta meditation) to help you get started.
Karuna meditation is the number one Buddhist meditation technique for compassion. Buddhists believe that you cannot become enlightened until you develop a very high level of compassion. That’s what this technique is all about.
Be thankful for what you’ve got:
The more thankful you are for what you’ve got, the more you will want to give back. And I know that you, are readers, are pretty much the leaders of the attitude of gratitude. But if you want to be even more grateful, take a look at my guide to developing the attitude of gratitude.
Advice from the happiest man alive
The Happiest Man Alive is Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard.
More than anything else in the world, Ricard say if you want to be happy, practice compassion. Compassion for yourself, for other people, for animals, for the world.
Ricard says he became the happiest person alive specifically because he trains in compassion every day.
Ironically, one of the best ways to develop compassion is by practicing a marital art: Aikido.
Aikido is not like other martial arts. Lessons in Aikido teach us to stop a fight through peaceful means. Aikido is about non-violent conflict resolution—basically, how to be compassionate when you want to punch someone.
Self Compassion Is The Key To Happiness, Studies Show
New research at the University of California, Berkley, reveals that self compassion, not self esteem, is key to success in life. 
If you want to be happy, self compassion is the key.
People wrongly focus on self esteem. However, studies show that high self esteem prevents us from accepting our weaknesses.
If self esteem is about feeling great about yourself then you’re naturally inclined to turn your eye from the weaker sides of your character. Because of this, self esteem does not increase out chances of success and does not necessarily make us happier.
Breaking research by the University of California Berkley science department has shown that self compassion is more important than self esteem.
WHAT IS SELF COMPASSION?
Self compassion is the ability to observe and accept your own weaknesses and mistakes with understanding and kindness.
Self compassion is accepting the less-than-awesome aspects of yourself in a nonjudgmental manner.
With self compassion, you are still aware of your shortcomings and mistakes and you still strive to be the best you can be, but you accept where you are at the present time being with understanding and compassion.
By accepting and understanding who we presently are, we gain knowledge. We become aware of both our strengths and our weaknesses. This broader perspective or ourselves helps us to function more effectively.
- High self esteem prevents us from acknnowledging our weaknesses, so we cannot work on them.
- High self compassion helps us to accept our weaknesses so we can improves.
- That’s why high self esteem can be a negative, where high self compassion is always a positive.
So, the next time you screw up, accept it in a nonjudgmental manner. Be realistic and understanding. Recognise what went wrong and what led to the error. That way, you can work around the situation the next time around. And to establish this mentality you can practice self compassion meditation.
How I personally learned the importance of compassion in life
I personally realised the importance of compassion six years ago when I went through a terrible time in my life.
I had moved abroad to Canada where I knew no one but my girlfriend.
A painful break-up left me homeless thousands of miles from family.
I hit rock bottom.
Depression crept up on me like Mara crept up on Buddha.
I considered taking my life.
My friends and family stepped in and helped me to get a flight back home to England, where I spent months recovering.
I have never been more aware of the importance of compassion in life than I was right there and then.
I vowed to dedicate my life to kindness and compassion. This very blog is the result of thousands of hours of work done in the hope of helping people. And it’s all inspired by the compassion of friends and family. Compassion saved my life, and compassion led me down a new path.
But the importance of compassion goes beyond this. We know that compassion is needed to change the world and to help those in need. And you and I put our everything into doing that, day in, day out. Whether you’re looking after that stray cat outside that needs you (hi, Matey (my stray feline friend)) or whether you’re working in a nursing home looking after the elderly, you need compassion.
Compassion doesn’t just help the person on the receiving end, though. It helps us, the compassionate ones, too.
Scientific research has proven that compassion is one of the most important things for both your physical and mental health.
Compassion. It’s what the world needs more of.
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