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The Value of Compassion
by Doug Probst, author of the upcoming memoir, The Musings of a Narcissist.
The Value of Compassion in Our Lives
I’d rather have a heart without words, than words without a heart.
What we truly desire when we hurt deeply is compassion from another human being. We all want to know someone cares. We all want to be understood, to be heard, to believe someone will listen. We need to know someone truly feels what we feel.
In my 50 years of life, I have yet to meet one person who doesn’t feel this way. When we express our pain to someone, we are seeking relief. This is the one constant principled value that has brought healing and transformation to every situation, every organization, every individual. That is the value of compassion.
The Value of Compassion Is Connection
No one cares what I know unless they know that I care.
I’ve seen many things in my life. I’ve experienced tragedy and loss, and I’ve experienced great joy and happiness. I’ve loved other men, and I’ve loved women. I’ve been hurt, and I’ve hurt people. I’ve been forced to see life from a different perspective many times. I’ve changed roles many times, sometimes for better, often times for worse.
- I was born into addiction with an alcoholic mother and a child rapist father. Later, I was placed into boys’ homes where some adults required sexual favors for proper care.
- I was a hustler and a drug addict. I now work with prostitutes helping them find jobs, and I’m a drug and alcohol counselor.
- I was a model and my photos have appeared in many print publications and websites.
- I lost hundreds of friends who have died from AIDS, at a time when prejudice and hatred delayed fighting the epidemic.
- I’ve been a professional musician & songwriter. I have performed on stages around the world with recording artists such as Billy Preston, who wrote “You Are So Beautiful”, and recorded with Neil Young and other well-known artists.
- I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and became a husband and a father not knowing if I’d live long enough to see my son grow into adulthood.
- I’ve been homeless, and I’ve acquired homes with money I was blessed with through self employment, partnering in businesses.
Having experienced all of these things, my primary goal is to connect with others who are still hurting and let them know I relate and they can heal. Over time, I’ve realized that if I want to reach someone to begin to heal their pain, they have to know I understand them first. Just because we may have similar experiences does not mean I have the right answers for their specific problems. Every person is different, and I know I need to understand what makes each special and unique.
The Value of Compassion is Comprehension
Compassion is to “suffer with someone.” Feeling is healing.
If I feel your pain and express that to you with conviction, you will sense that I care and I will have established trust. With trust comes the willingness to change and grow. We must listen intently to understand others. You can’t learn how to help someone, if you’re the one doing the talking. So listen. Let people know you’ve heard them by repeating back to them what you’ve heard them say.
In a sense, compassion gives rise to wisdom. A person of true compassion continually wracks one’s brain, pondering what one can do for this person and how one can best help that individual. Such a person pays attention to things that no one else may notice, and one naturally comes to see things that are usually completely overlooked. ~Josei Toda
The Value of Compassion Is Respect
Self-judgment halts progress.
We must also have compassion for ourselves. We know this from the pain we’ve felt, when we are judged by others. So why would we judge ourselves?
- Would we yell at a seed for not growing fast enough?
- We must not persecute ourselves.
- Recognize that your life has purpose and meaning.
Feeling unreasonable guilt or shame isn’t constructive. Healing begins when we compassionately remind ourselves, “It’s ok, I’m right where I’m supposed to be, and I’ll focus on the solution; I forgive myself.” People respect those who respect themselves. LGBTQ folks aren’t respecting themselves if they hide who they are.
The Value of Compassion Is Strength
Compassion is not weakness.
We can still have compassion for hateful people, and we must show courage when facing hate. We are not Ghandi, and we don’t have 300 million followers who are willing to lay down their lives for our cause. “Love conquers hate” sounds beautiful, but in reality it’s more of a cliché. It doesn’t work well in realistic serious situations. Throughout my life, I have yet to see love conquer those who hate us for our sexuality, and I don’t believe I ever will.
I’ve seen friends get hurt fooling themselves into thinking they can change a religious straight man’s bigotry. And there are still many who would harm us if given the opportunity.
The most effective way to change a heart scripted in religious hatred is to be authentic and honest about who we are.
Remain kind, trustworthy, and respectful. Be true to who you are. It’s much harder for people to hate someone they know, especially when treated with kindness and respect. We must not shrink from being honest about our sexual orientation or gender identity. We’re not respecting ourselves by hiding. If we don’t have respect for ourselves, no one else will.
Learning to Be More Compassionate
Compassion can impact your daily life.
With credit to the late Stephen Covey – a master teacher who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – I request you do this for 30 days: Be compassionate and kind to every person you know and meet, especially the ones you dislike.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Be a model, not a critic.
- Be a light, not a judge.
- Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
It begins with listening.
- Learn to listen to understand. Seek to understand. You’re not being compassionate if you’re talking – that’s lecturing. Let others talk, and just listen.
- When speaking your opinion on the internet, offer kindness and compassion, instead of name calling and blaming.
- Look at the weaknesses of others with compassion, not accusation.
The issue is your own chosen response to the situation and what you should be doing. ~Stephen Covey
I’ve done this, and my life changed dramatically for the better. I was scripted in cynicism, hate, mockery, and blame. Compassion is still something I work on every day of my life. But it’s a wonderful journey I’ve been on, and the courage to extend compassion to others is the foundation of what changed my life. When I think the problem lies with someone else, that thought is the problem. Whatever you have done, you can compassionately forgive yourself.
Stay authentic. Stay kind and courageous in the face of persecution. I am genuinely interested to hear how your 30 days went. I care.
Doug Probst is the author of the upcoming memoir, The Musings of a Narcissist. His professional career in music has spanned decades. He is an addiction counselor who lives in California with his wife, Marie.