Compassion for Yourself and Others

In a Buddhist context, compassion isn’t limited to a feeling toward others. Compassion toward oneself is important as well. Sometimes it’s more important. Now, you might think that of course we are compassionate toward ourselves. We may not act in our best interest all the time, but we certainly have a wish to avoid pain and to experience pleasure as much as possible and it can be very easy to feel sorry for ourselves when we are suffering. But, can it be said that we are always acting out of compassion for ourselves? We can definitely judge ourselves to harshly sometimes. While it may seem like we already have compassion toward ourselves, we often don’t act in our own self interest. We sometimes do things that we know are bad for us. That’s because we aren’t giving ourselves the right amount of compassion. We should do what’s best for ourselves as much as possible. Also, giving into anger and lashing out is a way of not giving ourselves compassion.

The best thing to do when something happens that causes us pain is to react with compassion. By that I mean compassion for yourself. If I feel compassion for myself, I won’t want to cause myself greater suffering by amplifying an already bad situation. I will want to try to resolve the situation, or at least try to get through it as painlessly as possible. That’s certainly not easy, but if we can just get into that mindset it is helpful. When something happens to upset us, we can take some deep breaths and say to ourselves, “Treat yourself with compassion.”

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher living in Kansas City. He gives online teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world. His writing has appeared in Lion's Roar, Patheos, Tattooed Buddha, and Elephant Journal.

3 Responses

  1. hedgedruidgwen

    One of the hardest things for me in the past has been balancing my compassion for others with compassion for myself. In fact, there was no compassion for myself; which lead to a great imbalance. If we judge ourselves too harshly, how can we be expected to truly treat others with deep compassion and without harsh judgement?

  2. BeetsNow

    When loneliness piles up too deep and thick the self-compassion (if not compassion for others) disappears…Make sure you never get too lonely. Self-compassion is based on imagining others feeling compassion for you, but when someone is lonely beyond endurance, then they can get caught in a swirling vortex downward, and all bets are off. It isn’t about “judgment”…it’s about the fact that all people need SOME supplies from the outside to keep it going inside. And I say NO meditation is effective without a real life outside the meditation chamber. There are more people than you might realize, who out of utter despair for an ordinary outside life…. turn to something that looks like meditation, but is not. Please always remember that when you start assuming that spiritually-minded people are getting all their other needs met. Sometimes they are just fooling you…..

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