Compassion Capacity: It Has the Potential to be Limitless
Do you believe in your unlimited capacity for compassion?
A few years back, I was showing a documentary in one of my classes; a film about street nursing in Downtown Eastside Vancouver. It didn’t take long to notice the immense capacity for compassion demonstrated by these nurses.
That was no surprise.
What did surprise me was the resistance I witnessed in several of the learners in the room; resistance to the idea that they too possessed limitless capacity for compassion.
How Does Compassion Develop?
I could tell by the look on many of the faces in the room that day that there was a desire to believe in and access unlimited stores of compassion and unconditional love.
We pondered the question together. Are we born with our compassion capacity already set or is it something we can cultivate and nurture over time?
Despite some interesting discussion, I could still sense some resistance in the room.
And as that resistance grew, it also took hold of me.
Yes, you are compassionate, damn it!
Suddenly, before I knew it, I was hooked. I was going to make sure that everyone in that classroom accepted his or her capacity for compassion if it was the last thing I did!
I was in a spiral that lead to a debate with one learner where I became hell bent on convincing her that she had unlimited capacity for compassion.
We finally agreed to disagree. But, I knew this would be the central theme for my Friday afternoon solitary monologue – a one-woman show that had become a weekly ritual.
What is the Resistance About?
I asked the question over and over again. I just couldn’t understand why anyone would actively resist the presence of such a quality as compassion. What makes it so difficult to accept our divine qualities? What makes us want to stay committed to our limitations?
Well, it is a safe place in some ways, I suppose. If we cultivate our full capacity for compassion, we might be called upon to demonstrate it more often. That could be challenging, uncomfortable, and as we have been told – it could make us really tired.
Enough About Them…What About Me?
So, eventually, I began to shift my focus from the resistance I had observed around me that morning to the resistance I was experiencing within.
What was that about? Where was this strong reaction coming from? I knew there was something I needed to know – something to learn.
I wrapped up the Friday show, but the monologue continued throughout the weekend. And then it dawned on me.
Instead of expressing compassion for those who felt resistance to the idea of unlimited capacity, I became rigidly attached to my way of thinking. My main objective was to convince them that I was right. And in doing so, I lost my sense of peace.
What Would Compassion Have Done?
To me, compassion is the ability to see another’s wholeness and divinity even when it might not seem apparent to the naked eye; and especially, when that person is unable to see it.
In this situation, I could have quietly held the vision of the person’s unlimited capacity for compassion instead of ramming it down her throat!
Compassion honours your way without making my way wrong.
Let it Go!
I learned two things that day. My personal perspectives regarding our capacity for compassion expanded. I realized that the only capacity for compassion I needed to be concerned about was my own.
I also became acutely aware of my attachment to my beliefs. Elements of compassion include acceptance, unconditional positive regard, and a willingness to see another fully without judgement or comparison. Create space for a different point of view. Let all ideas simply exist without the need to approve or disapprove.
Show others that you believe in them and their ability to find the answers to their questions – their ability to heal, to grow, to thrive.
Simply being present to another’s process is an expression of compassion.
Let’s get started!
What do you believe about your capacity for compassion?
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