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3 Ways To Be Kinder To Yourself

Empathy can sometimes be difficult

BY YAZA Ghana Team

Apr 16, 2021, 01:24 PM

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Compassion is one difficult road to tread on. Because while the idea of being more compassionate is appealing to many people, what stands in the way is that we get irritated by other people, often actually strongly disliking them.

How can you be compassionate with others when they irritate you, rub you the wrong way, make you angry?

It’s difficult. And something that stands in the way of true compassion, according to a number of Buddhists, is the ‘self’. As human beings, we really get in our own way

And the ‘self’ is almost always putting itself in the center of the universe, demanding things, and becoming angry when it doesn’t get what it feels it deserves.

If you think about it, you can be really blown away by how much we think about ourselves, and how often we believe that we deserve to be treated a certain way, that others should act the way we want them to act.

Watching Our Selfish Thoughts

When someone irritates you, your ‘self’ is angry because they aren’t acting the way you want them to act. You think you’re entitled to quiet, entitled to being treated fairly or with respect, entitled to have the world behave the way you want it to behave.

When someone gets in your way or cuts you off in traffic, you get irritated, because you think they should not be in your way. Maybe everyone should watch for where you’re going and clear a path?

When someone else needs help, you think first about how it will affect you, rather than how it will affect the other person. When something unexpected happens at work or in your personal life, you think first about how it will affect you.

When people are talking, you think about how what they’re saying relates to you, how you’ve had a similar experience, what they’re thinking of you.

These are self-centered thoughts. I also have them all the time- way more than I would have believed before I started monitoring them.

It’s natural for us to have these self-centered thoughts. We are human and at all times we try by all means to build walls of security around us because we feel we have to protect ourselves. There's nothing wrong with that. But sometimes, more often than not, it gets in the way of compassion. Let’s see what happens when we remove ourselves from the equation.

Selfless Compassion

Compassion starts with empathy- imagining putting ourselves in the shoes of another person, and trying to comprehend what they’re going through. We are probably wrong about what they’re going through because we can’t know, but without this imaginative process, we can’t have compassion.

Once we’ve empathized, and feel their suffering, the second half of compassion is wanting to end that suffering and taking action to ease that suffering in some way.

Empathy is incredibly important, but if we are thinking about ourselves first, and only ourselves, we have lost the plot.

We must get ourselves out of the way, and think of the other person. We can't be thinking of how to help the other person when the focus is only centered on ourselves.

So, to empathize, we must get out of the way. Be self-less rather than selfish.

How do we do that? 

The next step is to pause and try to put our mind in the mind of the other person, to empathize, to try to understand what they’re going through. To feel their suffering, and then to want to end it.

And then ask, how can I end that suffering?

It might not be easy, but you can definitely do it.

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