Your Beliefs and Values: Compassion is a Verb

Here is my submission for the Spread The Love Now group writing project put on by the three monks – Wade, Kenton and Albert.

The Three Monks – Wade of The Middle Way, Kenton of Zen-Inspired Self Development, and Albert of Urban Monk.Net have put forth a challenge: The Spread The Love Now group writing project.

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The purpose of the project is provide a lively discussion about compassion.

Here’s my submission:

I love the saying that love is a verb. I believe it’s true, first of all, and I think there’s something very powerful about a phrase that almost everyone seems to recognize or remember hearing. I guess what’s powerful is that while most people recognize it, I’ve never heard where it came from. If anyone ever knew, they don’t seem to be saying.

Lately I’ve been thinking about compassion, and I wondered if it could be a verb. It turns out there used to be a verb, compassionate, pronounced compassionATE, with the emphasis on the last syllable. But now compassionate is an adjective, and compassion is the term we’re most familiar with.

So I looked it up on Dictionary.com. Here’s what I found.

“(A) feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” That, again, is from Dictionary.com.

Do you see it? Do you see how compassion is a verb? I didn’t catch it at first. I had to read the definition several times before it finally just leaped out at me. “Accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” Of course, if you just have the desire, it’s not a verb. You make it a verb when you act on that desire to alleviate suffering.

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What I hope we get from this definition and the existence, long ago, of the verb compassionate, is that you can’t be compassionate (the adjective) just by sitting in your chair feeling sympathy. To truly have compassion, I believe you need to feel stirred enough to do something, anything, to help.

And I believe compassion is one of the cornerstones of personal growth. It starts with compassion for ourselves and the desire to change our lives. For me, it began when I realized that I was pushing myself straight over the cliff, so to speak, working one hundred hours a week at a job I hated, hundreds of miles from my family. I acted on that realization by quitting the job and creating a life I love.

I think when we show compassion, for ourselves and for others in need of our sympathy and then our actions, we make the entire world better. I truly believe in the butterfly effect. I honestly think that everything I do helps everyone else, in some cosmic way. I can’t really define how that works, but that doesn’t keep it from being true.

So when we compassionATE, we are not only making a difference in someone else’s life. We are making a difference in our own, and we are making a difference in the world. Every act of compassion makes that much more difference that will contribute to more compassion, which makes more difference…it all works in a circle. And isn’t that cool?

How can you turn compassion into a verb in your life?

  • Think about the compassion you show. Where do you concentrate it?
  • Where do you feel you fall short in showing compassion?
  • Try to take an opportunity today to show compassion.

Update: The Spread the Love Project is Growing! Here are the entries to date:

Ben Lumley at The New Horizons Project.
Kris Vockler at Beyond Zen.
Corinne Edwards at Personal Growth with Corinne Edwards.
Isabella Mori at Change Therapy.
Paula Kawal at Journey Inward Coaching.
Liara Covert at Dream Builders.
David Bohl at Slow Down Fast.
Deb Estep at Deb_Inside.
Swami Nirmalananda Giri and ReddyK at the Atma Jyoti Blog.
Mary Jaksch at Goodlife Zen.
Takuin Minamoto at Daily Action and Natural Expression.
Robin at Reflections on Compassion, posted at Yogini Myspace Blog.
Karen Zara at Abaminds.
Jenny Mannion at Heal Pain Naturally.
Evan Hadkins at WellBeingAndHealth.Net.
Shawn Williamson at do you LIVE or simply EXIST.
Patricia Singleton at Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker.
Alex Blackwell at The Next 45 Years.
Akemi Gaines at Gratitude Magic.
Vitor Bosshard at The Fractal Forest.
CG Walters at Into The Mist.
John Torcello has also contributed an entry by email, I’ve included it in the comments below.
Brightdays at Brighter Days for you and me!
Karen at Loving Awareness.
Krista at Lucid Amphibology.
Karen Lynch at Live The Power.
Andrea Hess at Empowered Soul.
Waters at Waters: The Last Thing I Wanted To Give.
Eric Grey at Deepest Health.
Stephen Hopson at Adversity University.
Em Dy at Pulse: Intention to Treat.
Iain Hamp at Follow Your Passions.
Rahul at Raw Speak.
Stephen Miracle at AltNoise.Net.
Pearl at Interesting Observations.
Mark at My Tropical Escape.
Matthew at Loving Awareness.
Daylle Schwartz at Lessons from a Recovering Doormat.
Charities Link at Charities Link.
Mihaela Lica at Pamil Visions eWritings.
David at Virginia Breeze.
Jerry Summers at Nothing Like Now.
Wishbone at Wishbone.
Arvind Devalia at Make Things Happen.
Samir Bharadwaj at Samir Bharadwaj dot com.

And to Zarang: Inspiring for compiling the final list.

NEWSFLASH: I’ve added another chapter to my life by joining C.A.S.T. Recovery, a Los Angeles based national outpatient drug rehab program which specializes in designing highly individualized recovery plans with appropriate professionals to support a client’s health, accountability, and success.

15 Comments on “Your Beliefs and Values: Compassion is a Verb”

  • Wow David, my thoughts took me to a similar place yesterday. I had seen a woman post to a discussion board that she was going to pray for a family whose house had burned down.

    I started thinking about prayer, and all the old Catholic ladies who are quick to add you to their list of people to pray for.

    I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with prayer, but it suddenly struck me that prayer is not much different than wishing, and wishing is a very passive activity. Nothing wrong with wishing, hoping, and praying, but if that type of thought doesn’t eventually lead to DOING, something is definitely wrong. Prayer should presuppose a decision to actually DO something good for another person.

    So I applaud your verbish ACTS of compassion, because I believe they will have much farther reaching effects than just sitting there feeling the feelings or thinking the thoughts but never acting on them.

    Dina (boy that was a mouthful for me!)

  • Dina,

    Wow! Thanks for sharing that.

    I agree that action and sustained effort are needed to accomplish most anything one sets one’s mind to. First we change our minds, then we change our actions.

    David

  • In my search for a way of living that works for me, I’ve found much that I like about Buddhism — at least the more Westernized “flavor” espoused by the Vietnamese monk, poet and author Thich Nhat Hanh.

    A popular meditation he teaches is to cultivate compassion. You visualize a person or people, while reciting to yourself this prayer:

    May you be filled with loving kindness
    May you be well
    May you be peaceful & at ease
    May you be happy

    You do with for a teacher, then a loved one, then someone who you feel has done you harm, then someone neutral (such as a guy in line at the grocery store), and finally, all beings. Oh, and significantly, you begin the meditation by wishing this upon yourself.

  • Jeff,

    Very interesting approach, especially the addition of including one’s self in the meditation. This flies in the face of what many are taught.

    Thanks for taking the time and sharing.

    David

  • [...] David Bohl at Slow Down Fast. [...]

  • David, great article. I agree with you that compassion should be a verb instead of an adjective. As I said in one of my article that I have written on compassion. Compassion starts with me. The same with love. Until I love myself, until I have compassion for myself, can I really have it to give to someone else? Before I love myself, what I have to give is a very poor imitation of the real thing.

  • Thank you for this great entry David. Agreed with Patricia above, it really should be a verb. Feelings don’t mean much if we don’t act on them ;)

  • [...] Therapy. Paula Kawal at Journey Inward Coaching. Liara Covert at Dream Builders. David Bohl at Slow Down Fast. Deb Estep at Deb_Inside. Swami Nirmalananda Giri and ReddyK at the Atma Jyoti Blog. Mary Jaksch at [...]

  • Hi David,

    Very interesting take, one that I’ve been working with for a while, and was part of my inspiration for getting this started with the other monks.

    Peace,

    Wade

  • (thank you for your entry, I ate half of my own comment before hitting submit, technology sometimes :) )

    Peace,

    Wade

  • Thank you for the link on this Project David.

    Namaste,

    Kris

  • [...] David Bohl at Slow Down Fast. [...]

  • Language has really hurt the idea of compassion more than just removing the verbal idea of it. Even if you want to express the action of compassion, we must use a passive voice to do it. “She had compassion for him.” As writers, we all know how the passive voice is useless compared to the active voice. I call for a reformation of the word compassionATE :) .

  • [...] David Bohl at Slow Down Fast. [...]

  • [...] david bohl at slow down fast. [...]

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