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  • Eve Coker, PhD, LCMHC

Checking our thoughts for compassion

Recently, a married couple whom I know fell on hard times and turned to Facebook to ask for assistance. My first thought was, "What did they do to put themselves in that position?"


Immediately, I realized what a cruel thought that was. I know that these two individuals are kind, hard-working folks who've never had it easy in life. They don't come from money and they have physical factors working against them in terms of appearance and mobility. I would not be surprised if they didn't come from a world where someone lovingly explained the way the world works to them, but perhaps had to figure out a lot of things on their own.


Too often, we express shock or disgust at others' behaviors or life outcomes, but we forget to ask "why?" Most of the time, it's because no one ever taught them to behave differently. In fact, a lot of negative behaviors are formed as a survival mechanism.

I certainly remember doing some destructive things as a kid because I was being a kid, and I was able to chance when someone pointed out to me that my behavior was inconsiderate. If they were rude when doing so, then sure, I definitely wanted to rebel, but kind redirection helped me understand how to modify my behavior.

So we carry these behaviors into our adult lives, and sometimes still live them out until someone corrects in a way that sticks with us. If someone corrects us in a way that causes us to feel like that other person is being petty or selfish, then we're not likely to accept that lesson.


Thankfully, our current state in the US seems to be getting kinder. A lot of people realize that we can fix more problems with compassion than with shame and punishment.

For example, this couple I mentioned earlier came to Facebook begging for help, and no one has visibly shamed them. Many are offering support and assistance. We all face our challenges and difficulties, but our privileges give us different levels of comfort and ability to overcome these challenges.


And sometimes life hands us different hardships that others could not fathom. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, we must accept that there are some things we can't control and that we can help others through our compassion: "There but for the grace of God go I."


It doesn't mean we have to enable others, as our current society also unfortunately teaches us to see ourselves as victims. We can help others be strong to overcome their hardships. "When you find yourself in hell, keep going" - Winston Churchill.




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