Of all of our discussion about compassion the last week of discussions were the most telling for me. We talked about compassion for ourselves. More directly we talked about how negative self talk damages us, prevents us from moving forward and how it lasts a lifetime.
In a survey done of thousands of women only 4% thought they looked good or beautiful. Why? Most had something that they did not like about themselves. Their nose, ears, hips, weight, height, eyes, hair and on and on. Really? Is this just limited to women? I don’t think so.
While men may not have the courage to speak the words, their actions show that they have negative thoughts about themselves also. Why do you think we have all of those commercials in the media asking men about their strength, drive, energy? Why is it that young men and athletes are willing to risk long term harm of themselves to be stronger or heal faster with steroids. Is it not due to a lack of compassion for themselves – a fear of what others might think of them? A fear of being perceived as weak or of being replaced by someone else? They most likely have heard the criticism from others or at the very least witnessed another male being criticized for not “manning up”.
These fears of not being enough come from the messages all of us have been hearing since we were very young from parents, teachers, friends and soon from ourselves. Here is what we need to do – replace those negative messages with positive ones. Not false flattery – but rather praise for effort, for learning something new, for perseverance.
As a parent or teacher, before we speak words of criticism to our child or any child ask yourself – Is this something I would like to be said to me? Before you say those critical words to yourself, ask yourself – Would I say this to a 5 year old? All of that criticism we took in as a 5 year old and beyond, is haunting us as adults today. Replace it with positive affirmations and statements to each other and ourselves.
Compassion is not just action taken to help our fellow humans. Teaching compassion might be more easily accomplished by teaching our children about the care of and compassion for, first the animals in their life and then for other animals that may not be a part of their daily life. There are some who say that anyone that is cruel to an animal – cannot be good to fellow humans.
How can we impress on the young people in our lives the importance of taking care of and looking out for every living thing? The three big areas of mission for Balanced Life Skills does this with first: Awareness: helping our young people to be aware of the needs of living things, how to demonstrate kindness to their own pets and developing relationships/connection with the animals around them. Even going to the zoo and learning about the animals and the problems that might be facing them, will help to make them aware of the need for action.
Compassion: Taking action. With their own pet, they can be responsible for their care, playing, feeding etc.. But action may also be on a larger scale with support for groups who are protecting animals in the wild from poachers.
Respect: By demonstrating respect for our own environment, reducing, re-using, recycling, planting trees, refraining from littering and cleaning up areas that are the homes for wildlife. This kind of example of respect for our youth, sets the tone they can live by.
One of the best models of this kind of education I saw in action in Vieques, PR and then learned more about as I researched the model they were using. It is called Humane Education. If you want to learn more check out the website: Institute for Humane Education http://humaneeducation.org/ To see the application in Vieques, PR check out their website: http://juntosvieques.org/
I have personally supported this program after seeing it in action. They have been able to reduce aggression in schools and the thought is that in the long run this kind of education will also reduce even domestic violence. Truly a worthy ACTION.
Awareness + Empathy + ACTION = Compassion It all starts with awareness. Do we see or recognize what others are feeling? If your friend lost their pet dog they are probably going to be sad or upset. We know this by both listening to their story and observing their facial expression or their body language. When we can put ourselves in that ‘persons shoes’ and feel the same feelings in your mind and body – we call that empathy. When we take action and give them a hug or listen to their stories about their dog we are showing COMPASSION.
Compassion is the results of awareness and empathy in those that take action. Without action we are simply listening and even comparing the feelings of ourselves with others. Sometimes though it is difficult to figure out how a person is feeling. Someone may show one emotion on the outside and truthfully feel different on the inside. Or they may be feeling two different emotions at the same time. It is possible to be a “little happy” and “a little sad”.
Imagine your friend is moving to a new school. They may be sad to be leaving their friends at this school – but happy about the adventure of a new community, school and friends. Using our awareness skills of listening, observing and empathy will help us to know what the compassionate ACTION to take that would be the most helpful.
How do you figure out how someone else is feeling?
Each month we will discuss a life skill with all of our students. This month the word is Compassion. This word will be defined in the following ways for our students.
Young students: Compassion means: “When you feel hurt, I want to help you feel better.”
Older students: Compassion means: The emotion we feel when others are suffering that makes us want to help them.
Each age group has a worksheet that parents can use to continue the discussion at home with their children, and one for adults to allow them to think more deeply about the skill and how it applies to them. Would you like to receive the worksheet? Stop by our studio at 133 Gibralter Avenue in Annapolis, MD and tell us the age of your child. We will give you a worksheet and invite you to watch Mr. Joe discuss the word with the students in class. You can also follow our discussions here on this website.
If you would like to become a member of Balanced Life Skills, come TRY CLASSES FOR FREE. We are not your typical martial arts school, in fact we are an education center, working with our students on physical skills along with empowering families with compassion, awareness and respect – creating a culture of peace. We believe in every child and build their self – confidence. Balanced Life Skills takes part in community service and encourages each student to do the same.
Come in and talk to the parents that are here and watch the class for the age group you are interested in. Learn about the Balanced Life Skills Way.
In 13 (short) weeks, I will be competing — and I use that term loosely — with a team in the Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder Event. To give an overview of the obstacles I am committed to overcoming, I will submerge and swim through an ice tank, crawl through narrow, sloping pipes leading into frigid mud, slither under low-hanging live wires waiting to electrocute, leap over 4-foot high hurdles of kerosene flames, and so, so much more across the distance of 12 miles!
Why go through with this? Besides wanting to challenge myself and test my physical limits, the Tough Mudder raises awareness and funds for theWounded Warrior Project. This project is focused on reintegrating injured soldiers into society, and active lifestyles, with their programs.
If you are interested and able, please support me in the Tough Mudder event, on September 8th, by donating online here. The proceeds raised will assist many individuals and families struggling to deal with the injuries received in the line of duty. You contribution is greatly appreciated!