The world of the 21st century has become one of the most vivid definitions of the “cognitive dissonance” notion. While people have been struggling in a society replete with wars and innumerable flaws, the last decades have also symbolized an explicit discussion of equality and universal respect to an unprecedented extent. Consequently, with today’s world being overflowed with problems, the word compassion has become quite frequently used among people who have different perceptions of the concept. Universally speaking, compassion is interpreted as concern and love for others, which evokes desire and motivation to help. As a part of the assignment, I was to experience compassion to its greatest extent for 24 hours, paying attention to the way I feel and treating others. Being quite a compassionate person myself, I was more focused on contributing emotionally to the ones whom I underestimate in terms of my normal behavior.
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To begin with, I struggled a lot in defining the very concept of compassion. Previously, I was convinced that compassion is all about transferring one’s feelings onto myself in order to show concern and understanding. Thus, the notions of empathy and compassion were, to my understanding, interdependent. However, after addressing some external sources, I realized that compassion did not always have to be about experiencing others’ emotions. In fact, non-empathic compassion can help others look at things from a different perspective rather than making others feel sorry about you (Bloom, 2017). Hence, in terms of Compassion Day, I perceived this notion as a sincere desire to help and support others without being dragged to the issue emotionally to such an extent that it would become destructive.
Speaking of my efforts’ recipients, the decision was immediate but rather strange. Since I always considered myself a compassionate person, I was always there for other people. However, when speaking of my closest surroundings, I was quite sure that my support should be understood a priori. As a result, I came to the conclusion that the people I should be helping the most are often the ones who do not feel my compassion toward them. Hence, I dedicated this day to my family and closest friends in the first place.
Prior to the Day of Compassion, my behavior was predetermined by a variety of external and internal factors that somehow constituted the ways I normally treat people. Such a conception of one’s own characteristics is also known as self-schemas that defines the manners appropriate to one’s patterns of self-perception (De Lamater et al., 2015). In terms of the assignment, however, I was not limited by any of my habits and, hence, completely modified my behavior in order to be there for my dearest people. The major difference, however, lay in the fact that with a radically different attitude to compassion, I felt a lot more energetic to help and support others rather than being absorbed by one’s feelings. As a result, I was more satisfied with the “Day of Compassion me” due to the fact that I realized how important it was to find a line between support and destructive behavior.
Previously I was convinced that I could not help people without being emotionally attached to them. However, during the Day of Compassion, I managed to listen to my family’s concerns in a way that would benefit them. By doing this, I was not dragged into their feelings to the extent that could distort my intentions of support. To my mind, this version of me was afraid to come out due to the fear of being not supportive and understanding enough.
Speaking of potential benefits and drawbacks of being compassionate, society seems to support either of the two major arguments on the matter. Some people truly believe that a pure desire to help others can never lead to something negative in the long run. Others, however, feel like making a sacrifice of their time and emotions when dealing with compassion. I can agree with both of these sides, as compassion and support are, by all means, genuinely good, but today’s world has made people afraid of being open. Many people claim modern generations to be cruel and egocentric, while I believe our generation to be honest.
Years ago, people had a moral obligation to support their surroundings regardless of their wishes. They were too preoccupied with what others might think of them to realize their true ambition to be compassionate. Nowadays, however, we live in a world where strangers’ evaluation is not a top priority, leaving it to the individual to decide whether to help others. Moreover, many people nowadays seem to abuse compassion coming from other people. Hence, while the intention of being compassionate will never be regarded as unworthy, it is the recipient of this act that defines the cost of an effort and whether there is a value in it.
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My family and close friends’ reaction was quite ambiguous, as they were not used to me being so compassionate when it came to their feelings and concerns. Still, the desire to be there for others is completely genetic, and my family is some of the most emotionally generous people I know. For this reason, their reaction was difficult to evaluate. My friends reacted with jokes or sarcasm that, in my opinion, was a defense mechanism for their curiosity. Nevertheless, I noticed how positively surprised they were with my behavior that day.
In my opinion, in order to foster compassion, people have to find compassion for themselves in the first place. Once they are emotionally fulfilled, they will see no problem in dedicating their support to others, especially those who need it more. The very concept of achieving self-fulfillment is described on the basis of compassion-focused therapy. In terms of this theory, people are to gradually learn how to treat themselves with understanding and support.
After pondering such an extraordinary experience, I am sure to conclude that the Day of Compassion has changed my attitude to the very idea of healthy communication with people. Previously, I did not realize that when people needed some support, they did not always want me to feel the same way they felt at the moment. They simply wanted to be heard in the world replete with noise. Moreover, when it sometimes seems that people who are the closest understand that you love and support them without the need to say and show it on a regular basis, these people feel the opposite. They are often overwhelmed with the fact that other lives matter more than theirs for someone they truly love. Hence, after this experience, I realized how much I want to make each day a compassionate one when it comes to my family.
Bloom, P. (2017). Against empathy: The case for rational compassion. Random House.
De Lamater, J. D., Myers, D. J., and Collett, J. L. (2015). Social psychology (8th ed.). Westview Press.