When I was driving recently, a woman cut in front of me with her car five times during my commute. She obviously wasn’t making any progress on the freeway and kept falling behind. Every time she decided to switch lanes to get ahead, I happened to be the car she victimized. This was an opportunity for practicing compassion.
I could have let this ruin my morning. But instead I decided to imagine why she was in such a hurry that she jeopardized her safety and that of others. It wasn’t easy. But I decided to stay sane. Maybe she was going to get test results for a health scare. Maybe her daughter was in labor and she was trying to get to the hospital. Who knows? I tried to empathize and stay out of her way.
We All Have Stuff
You never know what people are going through. Don’t take things personally. Know that everybody is on their own journey and just trying to get by.
Maybe that guy who cut you off in traffic just got fired.
Maybe the person who was rude in the store just had a fight with their teenager.
Maybe the woman who is crossing the street slowly is recuperating.
Maybe that guy who wasn’t paying attention at work was worried about bills.
When you put yourself into another person’s shoes, it’s easier to let the little offenses slip.
Empathy + Action = Compassion
Be motivated to turn these generous feelings into action. Hold the door open for someone. Wave the car in front of you into traffic. Smile at the lady crossing the street. Pay it forward in line at the Starbucks. Think up little acts of kindness. Make it a daily practice.
Practicing compassion is a selfless act, but you will also reap the benefits as much as the recipient. You’ll stay calmer, less stressed, and feel happier. The more we act compassionately, the more it will spread to others. You may need a simple act of compassion yourself someday.
Don’t Forget Yourself
Compassion is something we can all use a little more of in our lives. Try practicing it on yourself. Sometimes that is the hardest act to commit.
When you look at a photo of yourself and think you’re overweight, have compassion for yourself. You were doing your best at that time. Now you know better. Pass on your knowledge. Compliment someone who is feeling insecure.
Look yourself in the mirror, not at your hair or your skin or your makeup or your pores, but look into your eyes. How can you be nice to yourself today?
How can you practice daily compassion for yourself and for others? Share your ideas in the comments below.