Compassion, not just kindness

“Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.”

Far too often, true compassion is overlooked as just being simple kindness. There’s nothing wrong with being kind, of course. All acts of compassion are kind, however, not all acts of kindness are compassionate. It’s the societal norm to be kind to others. If you walk into a grocery store and be a jerk to the person in front of you in line, people are going to give you dirty looks. Being rude or ignorant is, in most cases, considered socially unacceptable. Nearly everyone is considered to have a certain amount of decency towards others, even if it means going through the motions. This often means empty gestures. Yes, that person won’t get angry with the grocery store patron in front of them that’s taking forever to pay, but mostly because society would look at that with a figurative scowl.

I don’t want to imply that all acts of kindness come from social necessity, that certainly isn’t the case. There are absolutely people who are kind in public not because of any norm forced upon them, but because they genuinely want to be kind. They realize that patience will get them farther than initiating conflict ever will. But I’d be lying if I said that I believe that’s most people.

If there’s any one thing that my experiences with depression have shown me in force, it’s that people often see what I consider to be my “realist” attitude as pessimistic. I’ve said many times before that I believe in the inherent good in all people. I do. But inherent is the key word for me. While everybody has the potential for infinite caring, it seems that so few people, well, act on that. So, if people have the potential for unconditional love, why is it so uncommon? There’s probably a long list of reasons why: for fear of it being seen as weak and vulnerable, because the feeling may not be reciprocated… but my guess is that the most common reason why is because it’s simply easier to be indifferent to it all.
We can still perform these empty acts of kindness without much sacrifice on our part, but true compassion requires looking outside of our own self more often than not. Why sacrifice our own time, putting our emotions aside for the sake to help others with theirs? It seems like such a predatory mindset – kill or be killed. Look after yourself and your own emotions, or supposedly risk your mental well-being to help someone else maybe feel a bit better. From that viewpoint, the answer as to which seems better is obvious. How, then, is compassion worth it?

To understand that, it’s important that we understand what compassion actually is. To have compassion for something, be it a person, group, or cause, is to care about it on a deeper level. It’s easy to be kind to people we see in passing. To have compassion for them is a different thing entirely. While kindness is just that, kindness, compassion is fostering understanding for one’s situation, considering everything affecting it. Compassion is attempting to understand where one is coming from, be it good, bad, or somewhere in between, and caring for them anyway. Compassion is understanding that you will never be able to fully understand anyone else, nor they you, but loving and accepting them for who they are and what they have to offer anyway. Compassion and acceptance go hand-in-hand – if you cannot accept someone, then it’s impossible to understand and sympathize with them.

The word ‘compassion’ has its roots in Latin. The root of the word, compati, literally means to “suffer with.” While I don’t believe that having compassion for something means you must suffer with it, it shows that true compassion is opening yourself up to the plight of others, whether you have a stake in the situation or not. Human society, and even more than that, human understanding, is built on the foundation of togetherness. This means different things to different people, but I believe cooperation and understanding for others is key. Humans can’t live alone. You can stick a person in the middle of nowhere for years and years, alone, and they may find a way to survive. But emotionally, they will be broken. Cut someone off from any possible chance of compassion, and everything they have dealt with and everything they will deal with is theirs and theirs alone. Compassion allows them to share the burden with others, strengthening relationships and fostering understanding. How many fewer wars would be fought it compassion was shown to enemies instead of no mercy? Instead of the “kill or be killed” mindset?

This may seem like an incredibly naïve mindset. I’m not advocating for pacifism, but I do believe that rudeness, mocking, hatred, and violence should never be the first go-to for a lack of understanding. If we put compassion ahead of everything else, how many fewer people would feel the need to end their own life? To turn to drugs or alcohol? To violence?

Letting ourselves be open to others doesn’t mean rejecting ourselves, though. By seeing what others go through, we can become better equipped to deal with our own ups and downs. To reiterate what I said before: “Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” Humans can survive alone. But to truly live, emotionally, mentally, spiritually…we need someone who has compassion for us. But how can we morally ask for compassion if we aren’t willing to give it ourselves?

So many problems in the world, past and present, are attributed to a lack of understanding. Compassion surpasses understanding – it allows for unconditional caring even when we don’t understand everything. But, understanding or no, it promotes cooperation. Again, I’m not saying we should all be pacifists. As morbid as it may sound, as long as humanity exists, violence will accompany us. But it certainly doesn’t have to be something we so readily turn to when understanding evades us. On a larger scale, like when it comes to entire nations, it’s obviously much, much tougher. But it’s possible. It has to be, if we start individually and build it up. For it to affect things larger than us, it first has to affect us. It needs to become a way of life, living compassionately. It would take years, I know. Years and years. But so do most things worth fighting for.

Understanding surpasses ignorance. Compassion surpasses simple kindness. And all of those things surpass violence due to lack of understanding. Compassion first. Everything else afterwards.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

Half-work-minded cafe ramblings.

So this post will probably be super fragmented, considering I’m sitting at the cafe I work at and I’m currently about three minutes through my ten minute break. I’m going to finish this post up during my longer lunch period (I hope), so if it seems like I change topics suddenly halfway through, that’s why.

So, a bit about me that isn’t “I’m sad.” As I’ve mentioned previously, my name is Ryan. I’m 23 years old, currently working as a barista in Illinois. I’m not from IL originally; I was born and raised in little ol’ Rhode Island. I moved away when I was 14, and most of my family, including my dear mother, are still in the New England area (RI, MA, CT…) I know Rhode Island doesn’t seem like the most exciting of places, and honestly, it probably isn’t. But it’s home to me. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve lived there (I’m just now realizing that as I type it, wow), but I’ve considered it home even if I have lived in a handful of places since. The ocean, the woods, the way one of the trees on my home street hung slightly over another one so that it looked like they were wrestling…it’s the little things that make the big things special.

I’ll explain more about why I moved away in a future post most likely (hint hint, it has to do with….depression! :P) But it’s a different beast entirely to tackle, and I’ll need a hell of a lot more than one blog post to explain everything about it.

So I mentioned in my first (and thus far, only other) post that part of the reason I started this blog was to basically have a healthy writing outlet to spill any emotions or crap like that onto paper (digital….paper?). This is going to be one of those posts. I have about 37 different things rocketing around my mind that threaten to distract me at any point in my day. As a matter of fact, just right now I’m sitting next to someone who threatens to make my anxiety go off the charts. Nothing against her by any means – she’s super sweet, friendly, and social. But past events, without going into too much detail, have caused depressive and anxious thinking whenever she may be around my place of work.

If you just read that and said “what the hell?”, I don’t really blame you. I just read that back over and I barely understood it myself. The selfish part of me says that’s okay, though. I started a blog to get my own feelings into words, to spill my emotion in a healthy format. Right?

Considering the fact that I just joined this site yesterday, I’ve only read a handful of posts on a handful of blogger sites, honestly mostly about depression (I mean, a few about coffee too, but like my moving situation, my coffee fascination is another beast entirely to tackle. It’s an interest that, instead of fading away with the revival of my depression, has actually become stronger and more important to me since. It’s an entire culture, a language much of the world speaks, like music. But like I said – another can of worms for another time.). I’ve commented on a few posts about depression, even if it was just a little snippet of encouragement. But I hope it helped somebody. I feel like crap most days, and, well, it’s crap. But I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, let alone people just like me struggling with real problems with a real mental illness affecting even the tiniest aspects of your life, permeating the most superficial and inane thoughts of your brain. 

To echo every brochure packet for therapists literally everywhere: you aren’t alone. People right next to you are struggling, even if it isn’t immediately obvious. There are always different degrees; some people can hide it under a smile, a social group, makeup, but many, who society often sees as the angsty, broody, quiet loners who “have problems like everyone else but are too lazy to deal with them.”, have more trouble tucking those feelings away. The people who matter know the truth, and the truth is that struggling with depression does not count as lazy. Being so depressed you can barely pull yourself out of bed in the morning is not lazy.

To whoever may be reading this:

You are smart.

You are beautiful.

You are unique.

You are worth something.

You are worth many things.

You are worth so much.

———————-

Hang in there.

My Soul Hurts

Hello, whoever might’ve stumbled across this. My name is Ryan, and as someone who has enjoyed writing for fun since middle school, it’s a bit odd that it took me until age 23 to start my own blog. Ah, well. Better late than never, yeah?

So why start a blog now? Long story short, it’s been a crap couple of weeks. Yeah, boo hoo right? See, I have depression. Clinical, not a “my internet was down, I’m so depressed” type deal. I’m fairly certain I’ve had it most of my life, but it really manifested in college, which now, looking back, I consider the Dark Ages…*shudder*
Anyway, it’s been years since depression has first made a sizeable impact in my life, and like many people with depression, it comes and goes in phases. I’ve seen multiple therapists, tried a bunch of different medications, even tried a month of outpatient counseling. Most of those things “worked,” persay, but there’s nothing that can cure depression. Nothing that can fill in that nagging hole inside your heart that tells you that you aren’t good-looking enough, or smart enough, or social enough. Sure, you can put a piece of duct tape over it for a bit, but it won’t last. And sometimes it feels like, even though you were sure it possibly couldn’t, that hole gets bigger and deeper and you feel it day after day.

I hate feeling like this. And I know that for the millions of people who also suffer from depression, I’m not alone. And that’s (part of) the reason I’m starting this blog. Part of me is doing it as a means of release, so yeah, there will be some fairly personal posts about my mindset, my feelings, my reasoning, etc. But another part of me realizes I’m not the only one who suffers from depression, and if I can do anything to prevent people from feeling the way I have been these past couple of weeks and other darker parts of my life, then I feel almost a moral push to help people by talking to them. Hearing them. Letting them know someone is listening and does care about them, even if it’s over a blog. You might have depression. Chances are, I may never meet you in my life. But that isn’t going to stop me from letting you know I’m here to talk, no matter how inane your problems may seem. I’m a stranger, but maybe I can be a stranger who makes your day a bit brighter.

To say that I’m going to post inspirational quotes and cheesy pictures constantly would be a complete lie. I’m all for cheesy inspiration and all that jazz. But this blog (as I see it playing out in my head at 4AM sitting in bed) will be a mix of personal experiences and some things about me, and posting whatever I think might help tumultuous minds like mine be eased, however little. Whether five people read my posts or five hundred, I’ll be here. 

You aren’t alone. Boy, girl, skinny, overweight, short, tall, black, white, there is someone like you, struggling with their own feelings. No matter what your mind tells you, you are worth something. Please, don’t forget that.