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If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. 
If you want to be happy, practice compassion. 
—Dalai Lama

Yesterday, our family was watching one of our favorite movies, Remember the Titans with Denzel Washington. Two of our grandsons, who love football, said they have watched the movie over 100 times—not sure of that number, but they do know the dialogue cold. 

One of the lines in the movie caught my attention:  Sometimes life is hard for no reason at all.

All of us have good reasons for life being hard, so I thought it might be a good time to revisit the idea of compassion.

Compassion is usually associated with sympathy for people who are suffering—something we can all relate to as we experience the profound impact of the coronavirus. 

But compassion has a place in everyday life because people are often on the edge of some struggle. Everyday life can be full of anxiety and stress and loneliness. Twenty-five percent of people don’t have someone to talk to when they have a problem, and we can never know what people are dealing with in their private lives. 

You do not know what wars are going on 
down there where the spirit meets the bone.
—Miller Williams, American poet

Work can be a place of comfort if everyone leads with compassion. 

Basically, compassion means you care about people—and they see that you care. You seek to understand what they’re going through and have a desire to alleviate any suffering. 

For me, compassion is bigger than sympathy. I like the term, whole-heartedness. It requires you to hold everyone in high regard, to believe in the best in people, and to realize that everyone wants to be seen and treated as being unique, relevant, and adding value.

Remind yourself that people are complex and their lives are complicated. Don’t presume to know how it is for anyone else, and always assume positive intent and give people the benefit of the doubt.

You can still expect a lot of people—sometimes more than they see themselves as capable of doing. Compassion is truly understanding what you are asking of people—and not expecting more than what you ask of yourself.

Compassion means you work at creating psychological safety, inclusion, and participation. These must be created because they don’t come naturally or easily.

In some ways, compassion is simple. Caring means that you slow down, are available, devote your attention to each person, and listen more than you speak. It’s a trait we all have access to; we just need to pull it out of the background and into the foreground where it can shape our interactions with others. 

Compassion brings us to a stop, and for a moment we rise above ourselves. 
—Mason Cooley, American professor

- Paul Axtell, author of Compassionate Leadership

August 2, 2021
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