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  • Writer's pictureDiann Schindler, Ph.D.

Compassion: a Multifaceted Gemstone

What exactly is compassion?

Compassion means “to suffer together.” It is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another's suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.

The question naturally arises: when you are motivated to relieve that suffering, what can you do?

You may feel compassion when you see someone begging and the street. You can give food, clothing or money.

You may feel compassion when you see someone struggling to carry groceries or packages. You can offer to help.

You may feel compassion when you see someone fall. You can help them get to their feet.

And, I see many more opportunities for compassion.

To me, compassion is like a faceted gemstone, with multiple flat surfaces called ‘facets.” Typically faceted stones have 58 facets, but it could be more or less. The purpose of having multiple facets is to reflect most of the light falling on it from different angles to give it, it's brilliance.

Imagine many more ways to be compassionate…58 ways...and shine brilliant light on someone and also within yourself.

Some compassionate actions are so simple, we may overlook them.

Here are a few examples I have experienced, where others showed me compassion or when I was compassion toward another.

A simple gesture: When a complete stranger gave me his cloth handkerchief to wipe my tears at an emotional opera concert in Lucca, Italy. Listen to “In the Know” Podcast episode Puccini and Lucca.

A choice to step away from his friends and help me: When I was trying to find my hotel in Paris, I stopped and asked four 30-something Parisians for directions. At first, three of them turned away from me and, only one spoke, “It’s not here.” Then, she also turned away. I softly and respectfully asked for directions again and waited, patiently. One of the men stepped away from his friends with his cell phone opened to his GPS app, asked me for the address and typed it in. Viola! I knew where to go.

My choice to avoid slipping into an “ugly American” behavior and embrace a challenging cultural phenomenon: I was in Paris during high season when the clerks at my hotel said they had no more rooms, even though I had a reservation confirmation. No matter my proof, I was ushered out and forced to go to another hotel where I met elderly Madame Donka who decided to shift into her old French cultural mode and tell me she had no availability when, in fact, I knew she did! Read my blog, “Culture, Kindness, and Compassion.”

Compassion is multifaceted, with many variations, including choosing a kindness and an offer to assist someone in need. Yes, and embracing behaviors, even in the face of potential angst, disruption and possible disagreement.

Spread the brilliance!

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