No one has to be taught how to be angry. It can rise up out of the depths spontaneously when we feel the most hurt and powerless, causing a need to lash out—sometimes even violently with either words or actions. If it has no outlet and is turned inward, it eventually becomes depression.
Lately, there’s been a whole lot of anger going around. We all know our world is changing and change brings on anxiety, anger, and even hate towards those who aren’t in agreement. Whether it stems from electing a new country leader, or worrying about the economy or another war, we are all in this together.
So why are we so angry with each other these days? Anger is like a toxin in one’s body. It ultimately will bring on illness or disease if it goes unchecked. Now more than ever is the time to embrace compassion, especially with our most mortal enemies and oppositional foes.
A Buddhist friend of mine recently sent me her thoughts on compassion, which was a great reminder that each of us has the opportunity to transform anger into something more heart-related. Let’s call it fostering the “Compassionate Heart.”
Compassion is all about having concern and empathy for the suffering of others. But should we have compassion for those people who intentionally steal, murder, and cause mankind untold hardship for their own gain? Having compassion for them means recognizing the negative and self-injurious way they have chosen to live. My friend says it is a double-edged sword. While they are harming others, they are ultimately harming themselves as well—something they often realize way too late in life.
A good example would be soldiers who have been sent into battle to kill, only to come back from war often physically maimed and emotionally destroyed themselves. We should have compassion for their actions. Killing is against man’s spiritual nature. It doesn’t matter if one’s government has told us we must kill or not. Everything comes down to choice. Is it a heathly choice or a harmful choice?
In fact, every event in our life is a mirror image with which to learn from. Each day we make self-choices through our direct actions or non-reactions. Tibetan teachings stress that compassion is strongly connected to one’s awareness of the results of one’s negative actions.
If someone steals from you, they may never think about how their actions have caused you grief or harm. Can we then have compassion for their ignorance and lack of empathy? Yes. It will certainly come back to them at some point, so perhaps we can have compassion for the future distress they have brought upon themselves. While this is intended to be nonjudgmental in nature, the old saying “karma is a bitch” still holds true.
I think back to someone I once knew who dappled in the black arts to get revenge on someone they perceived to have “dumped” them. They sought to destroy the person by any means possible. In essence they sold their soul for a brief moment of retaliatory satisfaction. They knew what they were doing was wrong, but failed to think about how they were harming and ultimately destroying their self. One can hope to have compassion for such vengeful actions versus being angry at their profound stupidity.
“Compassion is the ultimate expression of your highest self.” – Richard Simmons
We should meditate upon compassion for a few minutes each day to help awaken this understanding within us. Practicing it makes it become more natural. As the Dali Lama once said, This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
There are scientific studies that suggest there are physical benefits to practicing compassion. People who practice it produce 100 percent more DHEA, which is a hormone that counteracts the aging process, and 23 percent less cortisol the stress hormone. It’s a much simpler and healthier choice than taking prescription drugs.
There are emotional and spiritual benefits as well. It helps you be happier, which affects those around you who also benefit. It turns out that compassion is one of the main tools for achieving happiness. It gives you a sense of inner peace.
I find compassion is easiest to attain when I remember that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. Instead of recognizing the differences between oneself and others, try to recognize what you have in common. Ignore the differences. We all have friends, family and loved ones who don’t think the way we do, yet we still accept them. We can all learn to cultivate compassionate attention, compassionate thinking, compassionate feeling, and compassionate behavior. The more we work together, the more we can make this journey of life more bearable.
As an added benefit, out of compassion can come true wisdom. Someone once asked me if I could have anything I wanted, what would it be. I told them “wisdom” for one who has wisdom, has it all. But it all starts with a little compassion.
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Dr. Kathy Forti is a clinical psychologist, inventor of the Trinfinity8 technology, and author of the book, Fractals of God: A Psychologist’s Near-Death Experience and Journeys Into the Mystical