“Compassion is aptly summed up in the Golden Rule, which asks us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain, and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else.” ~Karen Armstrong
Several weeks ago, I posted the following blessing on my personal Facebook page:
“We were 18 & 20 years old when we choose to spend our lives together. We were young and had much to learn. There were the glorious times and the hard times. The road was not always smooth, but by God’s grace, love always found a way through. Today we celebrate the blessed gift of 53 years of marriage. Would we do it all over again? Absolutely! And how wonderful it is to know we would still choose each other.”
Six days later, my husband passed out at the dinner table. Fortunately, I was there to catch him; otherwise, he would’ve fallen onto the tile floor. In the proceeding days, he was hospitalized for surgical placement of a pacemaker. And on the night before I was to take him home, I fell in the hospital parking structure, fracturing my kneecap.
With both of us facing new physical limitations [my husband restricted to using one arm and I restricted to using one leg]; neither of us able to drive; navigating stairs of a 2-story home; getting groceries, making meals, taking showers, keeping doctor appointments, etc., the question became what did we need to do to support each other during this healing time. Reminding ourselves that the circumstances were temporary; knowing that many people were praying for us and had offered support; being thankful that one of us had full use of two arms and the other two legs, we could look at each other and tease – a fine pair are we!
Being in this situation caused me to be particularly appreciative that, by God’s loving grace, my husband and I have learned over the years to be more compassionate than what was modeled to us by the family systems in which we grew up. If we hadn’t been compassionate towards one another, we could have easily made this time worse by allowing ourselves to needlessly project our pain and frustrations onto the other. For me this realization emphasizes the importance of cultivating an ever-deepening capacity to be compassionate as I continue to Age and grow more vulnerable to the possibility of physical limitations.
At our very core, we all seek to give and receive love — as if, in our spiritual DNA, we are designed to hunger for an ever deeper, embodied quantity of shared oneness. Our Souls, knowing no separation, are in union with this oneness and inherently know this is not only possible but intrinsic to the fulfillment of our life’s calling. Our universal desire to love is what lures us to grow beyond our deeply ingrained, self-protective Ego patterns into a life of compassion.
This is not to say that the road to a more compassionate life is a quick or easy one. In her comprehensive, provocative book, 12 Steps to a Compassion Life, Karen Armstrong convincingly asserts: “attempts to become a compassionate human being is a lifelong project. It is not achieved in an hour or a day — or even in twelve steps. It is a struggle that will last until our dying hour.”
By powerfully tracing the dynamic role that compassion has played in the development of humankind and how, more than ever, compassion is needed in our times of rampant turmoil and compassionate-less global violence, she adds that “. . . even if we achieve only a fraction of this enlightenment (i.e. being compassionate) and leave the world marginally better because we have lived in it, our lives will have been worthwhile.”
Each of us can make a difference, in our lives and in our world, beginning today. I highly recommend Karen Armstrong’s book as a place to start. It’s Soul Time.