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Compassion is not Sympathy

A friend was recently telling me a story about how she a woman at the doctor's office starting at her son's scars. That mama-bear instinct rose up within her, and she found herself angry and defensive as she starred daggers back at the woman.

As she told me the story my heart broke for her. I told her, I feel that with Theo all the time. People stare at him, clearly confused by his behavior, and it’s so hard to just let them stare and judge. When I’m in a store and Theo is having a melt-down, I experience a variety of reactions from people: There’s pity – the head tilt, a frown, and the ‘I’m sorry’ eyes. Then there’s avoidance – a deliberate attempt to avoid eye contact as if to say ‘I don’t notice that there’s anything different about this at all.’ Which we all know isn’t true. But the reaction that means the most – is compassion. Real compassion isn’t pity, sympathy, or empathy. Compassion is looking someone in the eyes, even when their injury, disease, or disability is so obvious, and seeing them. It’s looking past the body, and seeing their essence. It’s smiling at them, not out of pity, but from a place of love and light. That is compassion. The truth is, we all have scars. We all have experienced trauma, injustice, or dysfunction in one way or another. It just might not be visible. It’s a beautiful practice to be compassionate to those who wear their struggles on the outside, but what about those of us who don’t? Compassion is much harder to come by… This week I encourage you to practice compassion – with everyone. That includes the person who took your parking spot, the customer with an attitude, or the random person passing you on the street. Remember, even if you can’t see it, we’re all struggling with something. Look people in the eyes, smile, and send them love. You don’t need to know who they are or what they’re up against, you just need to know that the remedy for feeling alone in our suffering, is feeling seen and loved. You have the opportunity to give that to everyone, every day.  May you experience the compassion that you give...

With love and gratitude,  Robin

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