The act of compassion

Today during my Pilates session, my teacher and I talked about empathy and compassion, and how hard it is to really understand certain things unless one has experienced them oneself. I think that one can nonetheless extend compassion without requiring understanding, and that doing so is an important spiritual as well as inter-personal act. It’s also important to forgive onself for not being able to make that extension, as it is quite hard to do. It requires a real willingness to attempt to put oneself in someone else’s shoes, certainly. But almost more importantly, it requires a willingness to accept and value the validity of someone else’s choice despite not being able to imagine making those choices oneself, given sometimes entirely different experience, feelings, and opinions. And compassion is probably a pre-requisite for forgiveness, which can be even more challenging. To extend compassion is an act of love. Those are the things I am working on these days: treating people with respect, extending compassion to others and to myself, and forgiving myself and others for the very human difficulty we all have in these areas.

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