Bringing in the New Year
So here we are at the end of another year. 2018 closes and 2019 spreads out in front of us as a sea of endless possibilities. While preparing to write this post, I read last year’s out of curiosity. I couldn’t remember what I said about 2017. Turns out I spoke a lot about kindness and the losses we endured.
To read that post, click the link here. It still fits today. I still miss Tom Petty and Sue Grafton. I’d still like a little more kindness in the world.
But I originally started out thinking about compassion for this post. So after reading last year’s, I found myself contemplating the difference between kindness and compassion.
Kindness: to act in such a way as to try to help someone.
Compassion: to feel the emotions of another.
Both are aspects of a value system that make the world a better place. An easier place.
I see kindness and compassion play out in the animal world all the time. My young horse, Radar, likes to share his toys. When a mare he knows well was confined in a small space for a short time next to his paddock, Radar repeatedly tossed his toy into her pen.
This could be interpreted in multiple ways. Kindness, he thought she would enjoy it. Compassion, he knows what it feels like when no one wants to play with you. Playfulness, he wanted her to play with him.
Regardless of the cause, he acted kind.
But there’s a fundamental difference between kindness and compassion. I can act kind, but feel anger and resentment. For example, a person pushes through a crowd, he says “excuse me, excuse me,” I step aside to let him pass, which is kind, but after he disappears I complain loudly about how rude he was and feel anger.
To have compassion in the same circumstance, I step out of the way and consider what might be going on in his life. That his child is sick, his partner is stuck in an unsafe place, his dog got out and got picked up by Animal Control.
Any of these circumstances would make me understand why he’s pushy. It would excuse his behavior. I would not feel anger or resentment, instead, I would feel compassion. Hope his child feels better, he finds his partner safe or he gets his dog back.
As we move forward into 2019, I would love to see more compassion. When someone does something that appears rude or thoughtless, use your imagination and think about what might be going on. Maybe she has an emergency. Maybe he is having a panic attack. Maybe she deserves our compassion even more than our kindness.
Regardless of the other person, we can experience less anger. We can choose not to breed contempt. Our lives can be more peaceful if we let compassion drive our reactions.
I hate preachy posts, so I’m going to stop there. If I went too far, I hope you’ll feel a little compassion. The anger I see every day troubles me. The knee jerk reaction of us vs. them discourages me. The lack of civility unsettles me. The constant vilification of the people in our own communities concerns me. The terrible ways in which we treat anyone we consider an outsider disheartens me.
For 2019, let’s all share our toys.
Wishing all of you a happy, healthy, playful New Year.
Elena- (and Radar)
Horse photo: Radar coaxes JD to play with him.
Header Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels