Six ways to live a compassionate life

Can you see yourself caring for others in a sincere, meaningful way? It’s not impossible or just for people with sensitive hearts.

You can be kinder, more relatable and helpful to anyone who comes along your path. Inspired by the book by Karen Armstrong, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, here are six practical tips to inspire you to invite compassion into your day-to-day living.

Be kind to yourself
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the universe, deserve your love and affection.” The Buddha

A compassionate life radiates from the inside out, so the only way to truly show love to others is to first start with yourself. Stop being your worst critic and turn into your greatest cheerleader. Be patient with yourself instead of rushing to assume the worst of your abilities. Resolve to speak only good things about you instead of putting yourself down. The compassion you feel inwardly will overflow to everyone in your life.

Be a giver
One way to be more compassionate is to give. You can give money to your house of worship or to charity. You can also donate clothes to organizations that help the homeless. However, your offerings don’t have to be to a stranger. Look for opportunities to give amongst your friends and family. Perhaps your cousin has fallen on tough times or a friend just lost a spouse. You can be an angel for someone in need who’s close to home.

Find a cause
Many people don’t have a cause — an issue or a plight about which they feel strongly. Causes give life fire. Want to know what your cause is? Ask yourself this question: what upsets you most when you watch your local news? Where do you see injustice that really riles you up? What makes you want to stick up for the underdog? These are clues that will lead you to organizations that you can join and support.

Forgive both big and small offenses
To lead with compassion means to extend mercy to others. That can be difficult when you feel like you’ve been wronged. Whether it’s a major crime against you or something as small as the rudeness of a stranger, you can learn to be a forgiving person. Forgiveness shows love to people in your life whether you feel like they deserve it or not. It frees the offending person, but it also releases you from the burden of carrying resentment.

Take care of something or someone
Be an active participant in the care and nurturing of another living thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a child, a spouse, a pet or a plant. When someone else’s ability for growth and maturity is dependent on you, it calls for something special to rise up inside of you. It expands your heart and builds up your capacity for kindness.

Expand your worldview
Having compassion comes from a place of empathy, which is the ability to feel someone else’s feelings. That can be difficult when most of us exist in our own tiny universe. So you have to push yourself beyond the knowledge and influence your own family and social circles. Read biographies about people you have nothing in common with. Watch documentaries made by and for ethnicities , genders and religions other than your own. You can go beyond tolerance to understanding when you make an effort to see life through someone else’s eyes.

Jennifer E. Jones is the Inspiration Editor at BeliefNet.

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