The Value of Compassion

Empathy. Sympathy. Compassion. All these words imply and evoke the need for one to be kind, understanding, concerned for others’ wellbeing and suffering. We all generally expect people to adorn themselves with such qualities, ones that are considered good, paragons of virtue and very often, we praise individuals who possess such traits. ‘The joy of giving’, ‘sharing is caring’, ‘a friend in need, is a friend indeed’, are some of the common proverbs and phrases popularized in order to spread values of compassion and empathy. And the importance of compassion is pertinent as in the current fast paced world we are living in, we are struggling with showing care and support to each other, due to a lack of empathy and understanding. Compassion can be a great virtue when it is done in a non-judgmental manner, for both the giver and the receiver. Therefore, as preachy as this is going to sound, here are some of the reasons and aspects that make compassion crucial in our regular day to day lives.

Connections!

No, I am not talking about LinkedIn connections here, mind you. ‘Connecting to others’ might seem like a very obvious point, but it is definitely one to mention at the top of the list. Research has time and again suggested that being compassionate actually increases one’s connection to themselves and others. To elaborate further, the aspect of social connection is a vital source of energy for humans in general, especially considering how humans are inevitably social animals. According to research by Seppala et al. (2013), social connection can be defined as “a person’s subjective sense of having close and positively experienced relationships with others in the social world”. 

This feeling of social connection is extremely crucial for our lives and has been proven so, when considered from the perspective of an individual’s physical and psychological needs etc. As studies show, being compassionate helps to increase these feelings of social connection through perceived self-other similarity, where one feels similar to the individuals around them, to put it simply. Because of this perception, further altruistic behaviour becomes more possible and via a domino effect, increases social connection and strengthens relationships.

Boost your well-being and happiness!

Speaking of social connection, as can already be understood, it is solidly linked to one’s well-being as we humans love being amongst other people. So being compassionate actually helps your well-being by default then! Moreover, this does not just involve being compassionate to others, but also to yourself, because after all, charity begins at home. Self-compassion has proven to increase one’s happiness, reduce depression. Self-compassion here refers to understanding the suffering of onesfel, being aware of the pain and choosing to stay connected to it, without avoiding it, and showing feelings of kindness and understanding to one’s self or pain. Self-compassion can also be thought of as showing a caring and optimistic attitude towards oneself when faced with failures or issues. When someone is compassionate, and less critical of themselves, they can create or further enhance a positive mindset, through which they would not criticise their own mistakes or consider their failures with negative thinking, but would rather refer to a positive outlook and recollect happy memories, which in turn could improve well-being and happiness (Shapira & Mongrain, 2010; Zessin et al., 2015). Plus, self-compassion may have an impact on goal-setting by reducing the negative emotional impact of perceiving negativity in setbacks and failure. What’s more, in a long-term outlook, along with reducing depression, self-esteem levels get boosted through this too!

Push that stress far away!

It’s not just depression or well-being that is influenced by being compassionate, but feelings of stress and anxiety for others, and yourself, can be alleviated just as well! But compassion and reduced stress levels, how does that work? A past study showed that when participants were made to face stressful conditions, their participants’ physiological response to stress was significantly reduced when compassion and social support was provided. They had lower blood pressure and lower cortisol levels, which is a hormone associated with stress (Cosley et al., 2010). And as for helping yourself, being consistently self-compassionate, by emotional reorganisation of thoughts and emotions positively and realistically, one will be better able to cope with any stressful situations.

Lend a helping hand

Coming back to the point of ‘a friend in need, is a friend indeed’, compassion and kindness are two values that can always be someone else’s saving grace, even when we least think so. As dramatic as this sounds, sometimes, we never know what someone else is going through. Someone’s world might be crumbling around them, while ours might just be building itself up. Just like we wish for someone to help us out every now and then, there is someone in this world wishing for the exact same thing. It doesn’t hurt to be a little nicer every day, does it?

So there you have it, although what may sound like a sermon of good virtues, do take this as a reminder to be compassionate not only to others, but also to yourself. Even simply reaching out to someone and being there for them, for an individual going through some turmoil, can make a huge difference. It makes us more aware of what others are going through and above all, compassion transforms and gives meaning and purpose to our and others’ lives.

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2 Comments

  1. Gopalan at 4:04 pm - Reply

    Excellent write-up with an indepth study governing behavioral issues.
    Best Wishes

  2. Gopalan at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Excellent write-up with indepth study on behavioral issues.
    Well done. Best Wishes

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