Compassion didn’t come naturally to me. I was born to a very compassionate family, but growing up, I saw it as a weakness – a waste of resources. As an adult, I began to admire compassion in others, and it became apparent that the fruits of compassion were far sweeter. I decided that I wanted to be that kind of person, and I started overtly working at it. I still work at it daily, and I’m still just learning.
In a given situation, I ask myself what the person I WANT TO BE would do, and I try to do that. My lord and savior Joe Rogan has two rules for helping yourself to be compassionate:
1. Treat everyone you meet as another version of you, living a different life.
If you’d been born to different parents, in a different body, facing a different set of circumstances, your life would look entirely different. We can try to imagine how we’d do, given that hand, but we can only ever imagine it through the subjective lens of our current circumstances.
2. When you look at someone, remember that that person is just a baby who got older.
We all started out as babies. We all started out innocent. Different factors shaped us into the people we’ve become, but inside, we’re still just those babies, and each and every one of us is probably just as confused by this existence, though we all try our best to pretend to have our shit together. Before you treat a person a certain way, ask yourself if you’d be willing to treat a baby that way, or a child, or a big, angry, wrinkly, bearded child.
My point is, compassion wasn’t my default state, but I realized that it’s a superior set of operating procedures for interacting with other human beings, and like any other language or skill set, I’m doing my best to become fluent in it in order to optimize interaction and communication. Just because it doesn’t come easily to you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. Make it a daily practice, and eventually, maybe we can all do it without thinking.
If your current set of operating procedures (be it an ideology, religion, or whatever) is at odds with compassion, even in small ways, perhaps it’s time to take a look at it and decide whether it’s helping or hindering your communication and interaction with other human beings.