Forgiveness – The Path to Compassion


It is easy to misunderstand yourself and others and often difficult to move beyond that misunderstanding to universally accepting things as they are.

The world is full of suffering. Holding on to hurt and our own suffering guarantees a world of continuing pain, dysfunction, disconnection, failure, and misery. The key to conquering this negativity is to develop compassion and mercy in our lives and to apply those virtues as tools in our dealings with others. It begins with simple acts of forgiveness and an expectation of compassion.

Compassion is a human emotion that is experienced by perceived pain and suffering in others. Etymologically, the word compassion means to suffer together with. Compassion often involves an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering. Various cultures and spiritual traditions around the world have recognized the value of compassion within the individual as a key component to spiritual maturity.

Compassion as a philosophic principle.
The Egyptians and, later, the ancient Greek world produced many philosophers who valued the principle of compassion. Usually imploring people to either do no harm to others or to understand how others feel when harm is done to them, ancient Greek philosophers taught that compassion is one of the highest virtues in life.
“He sought for others the good he desired for himself.”
– The Egyptian Book of the Dead

“Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.”
– Pittacus

“What you wish your neighbors to be to you, such be also to them.”
– Sextus

“One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him.”
– Socrates (from Plato)

Other philosophers who espoused some version of compassionate behavior and action towards others are Thales, Epictetus, Isocrates, and others. Apart from the philosophers, ancient folktales and stories abound with tales of compassion and forbearance towards others.

The Golden Rule.
All religious traditions consider compassion to be one of the highest attainments of virtue one can attain. In the west, the principle of compassion is perhaps best embodied by the Golden Rule:”Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”
– Matthew 7:12

The Christian Bible speaks of God as the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). In most if not all Christian traditions, compassion is closely linked to charity towards others which is considered the duty of all believers in the faith.

The Three Central Virtues of Hinduism.
Compassion, along with self-control and charity, has significant importance in the Hindu practice of refrain from harming others (ahimsa). Hindu philosophers, political leaders, religious authorities, yogis, and saints form a long line of persons who have historically valued the operation of compassion (daya) in daily life.

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.
Buddha reportedly told his assistant Ananda that compassion (karuna) is “not just part of our practice, but the whole thing.” Buddhists stress that in order to manifest compassion for others, it is necessary to experience one’s one suffering and to show compassion towards oneself. Suffering (dukkha) is central to the Four Noble Truths, relating to the nature, origin, cessation, and path to cessation of suffering.

The Jewish Father of Compassion.
In Jewish tradition, the revealed word of God is said to be rhamana or compassion, which has various associated meanings including “to pity” or “to show mercy.” Compassion itself is seen to be much more than a simple human emotion, but rather a fundamental attribute of divinity.

Islamic mercy and compassion.
113 of the Quran’s 114 chapters begins with the verse, “In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate.” This illustrates the Islamic view of the importance of a Creator who is both compassionate (rahim) and merciful (rahman). One of the purposes of fasting for Muslims during the month of Ramadan is to identify with the suffering of others and to develop compassion for the unfortunate.

Forgiveness as the ultimate practice of compassion.
For compassion to be an effective practice in your life, it must be done on a daily basis beginning with yourself. The only way to be truly compassionate towards your own and others’ suffering is to forgive. It starts with forgiving yourself for not living up to the illusion of who you think you should be and extends to forgiving others for not living up to who you think they should be. In this way, forgiveness has the power of banishing hurt and resentment within yourself and opens the door for true compassion.

The benefits of a compassionate life.
No one exists in a vacuum, despite our often misguided efforts to make it appear so. We are awash in a sea of connections, relationships, histories, and passions – and we share these things with others. Living compassionately is acknowledging these shared energies and understanding that what affects one affects us all. Compassion can be a path to achieve this kind of deep understanding. It can also be a direct result of the awareness of the myriad of connections we all experience during our lifetimes.

A compassionate life is actively engaged in the connections it shares. A compassionate life is not possible without doing the work of forgiveness on behalf of ourselves and others. A compassionate life is a way to experience happiness at the soul level, even when the world seems overrun by suffering, pain, and heartbreak. This kind of deeply felt happiness has immediate benefits that translate into better relationships, vibrant health, increased productivity, positive attitudes, and a myriad of other wonderful effects.

Forgive yourself and others and be compassionate to experience happiness as you’ve never experienced before. The world’s spiritual and religious traditions got it right. When compassion is accepted as a central virtue in our own lives, we begin to see the possibilities of how to make that kind of happiness possible in the lives of others.

About the Author

Tim Thompson is a professional freelance writer/editor whose work with Dream Manifesto helps illuminate life for online and offline audiences around the world. He is currently busy working on several writing and editing projects. Please visit Thompson InkWorks [http://www.thompsoninkworks.com/] for more info.


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