For Yourself and Others
Compassion (as it has been studied) offers a boost to our endorphins when we are engaged in helping others – as long as the help is not self-serving. So we are talking about a genuineness in the giving a heart in the giving and doing.
In the Jewish tradition, it is called a “mitzvah” when we give or do something for others. The highest form of “mitzvah” is when we do it anonymously wanting no recognition for it. That is truly giving from the heart. No motive. No one to slap you on the back for being such a good person. No notices in the paper for what you’ve done in the service of others. Just a good deed that stands alone.
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “No good deed goes unpunished.” Sometimes things just don’t go right. It doesn’t mean that the kindness you did should not have been done.
Some people do thoughtful things for others with the hope that the person will notice and do nice things in return. People are often resentful because they didn’t get back from their giving. That expectation takes away the heart in your giving. When we give from that place of true generosity, there is no waiting for a return. It just feels good to do something nice or to do the “right” thing.
When I think about the many caregivers who have the responsibility to care for their loved ones – a sick child, an ill or dying partner or friend, I think of the huge challenge it must be to stay in their hearts as they administer twenty-four/seven.
How do you not feel resentful from time to time? Isn’t it only human to acknowledge that you are tired, that your life has changed because of your role as caregiver? That your days and nights have been compromised to fit that role?
We each believe our life is going to look a certain way. Marriage and children, or a particular career, will be a wonderful, fulfilling experience. And, then something shakes it all up and you are now living something that looks nothing like your dream.
What do you do? What can you do? How can you nurture your heart and remain a compassionate person?
In part, we need to extend compassion to ourselves. We need to accept that it serves us to alter our dreams to accommodate reality. Find ways to support ourselves as we move through all the tasks and challenges. And, recognize that this is our biggest challenge. The result will be a gift to ourselves and the person who would have it a different way if they only could – the sick child, the partner, the aging parent.
This also goes for those of us in other helping professions such as therapists like myself. An old friend once said to me, “You and I are different. I (another therapist) put it out there. If they get it, that’s great. If not…well, I did my part.” He looked at me and said, “You really care.” I do. And caring takes a toll.
At the end of a long day into everyone’s pain and the responsibility of my role to heal, I am tired. Yes, I am also grateful for for the privilege of their trust and for my skills to come through for them. And – I am tired. I recognize there needs to be a balance in my own life. I have to make sure I carve out some time for myself – things that fill my soul. My partner, my family, cooking for people I love, classical music, writing…. They all do it for me. And then filled up, I approach another day of giving. Thirty-three years of assuming responsibility for other people’s healing, and I will stop once my heart isn’t the fuel behind my work.
I believe we all have jobs and careers (whatever we do) that are in the field of human service. I think of doctors, policemen. builders, cooks, teachers, housecleaners, … and the list goes on forever. Whatever our job, doing it well serves everyone. And,when people are doing it only for the money, without any satisfaction for what they are doing, then they are depriving themselves of the gratification that comes from doing a good job and realizing others will benefit.
When we are in the service of a sick one we love, we need to keep in mind that this is the time we have with them. Focus on that and not what we don’t have. We all live on borrowed time and few of us get to have the perfect life. And, it is the life that we have, not what we would have wanted it to be. Nurture ourselves as we give ourselves to whatever our personal challenge may be full-hearted.
Learn to find value and pleasure in what is rather than resent what isn’t. Live mindfully present in our present life. When compassion is genuine, it can help get us through the really tough stuff. Compassion in all its elements will make life so much more manageable. And, in the end, peace and gratitude will be it’s reward.