It’s so easy in society today to feel that humans are by nature selfish creatures. And to some extent it’s true, some humans are selfish creatures but I refuse to believe this is how nature intended us to be and I am not alone in that thought. Decades of research from psychologists at Princeton University, Emory University, and the University of Wisconsin have proven that compassion isn’t some irrational emotion driven by personal gratification but rather that the brain is wired to respond to others’ suffering.
“…Clearly, recent scientific findings forcefully challenge this view of human nature. We see that compassion is deeply rooted in our brains, our bodies, and in the most basic ways we communicate. “ Dacher Keltner
Another very interesting, and hopeful, line of evidence regarding compassion is that, in most situations, it is something that can be learned. Compassion can be learned by witnessing others behave compassionately, having someone act towards us in a compassionate way, and by learning to be more compassionate with ourselves.
To learn about compassion we must find ways to get involved in situations where compassion is practiced. Barbara A. Kerr suggests the following actions can help build compassion:
- Create a new circle of friendship
- Meet someone from another generation
- Talk to a neighbor
- Create or join a compassion club
- Reach beyond your current boundaries
- Identify what makes you feel included and forward that to someone else
- Volunteer in your community
- Commit to a conscious act of kindness every week
- Ensure everyone feels valued, respected, and heard
- Acknowledge someone you usually ignore
- Ask, “What do you think?”
- Listen with love
Simply by finding situations where we can actively show compassion, or feel compassion from someone else we can begin to grow our compassionate understanding for both ourselves and others. Each individual act of compassion creates a cascade of compassion that grows bigger, and bigger like ripples in a pond. Finding ways to be compassionate daily with our families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors will slowly but surely create a more compassionate world in which we exist. Do you want to see less selfishness and more compassion in your world? It all starts with you, my friend…be the change you want to see in the world!