Is it not true that when you demonstrate love to others by going out of your way to help them, you feel quite pleased with yourself? You give yourself a proverbial pat on the back for reaching out and putting someone before yourself. There’s a saying which we can all utter even in our sleep, “better it is to give than to receive”. There’s an overwhelming joy which wells up from deep within you and soon envelopes your entire being when you give.
It evokes a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment, not unlike the euphoric feeling of fulfilling one’s purpose. It’s a feeling which receiving the greatest gift cannot compare to. Of course, “giving” here is not limited to money, but giving of yourself, which can take a variety of forms. But all can be summed up in one word, compassion. But do you know the irony? The number one beneficiary when you show compassion is not the other but yourself. And this is why compassion is named among the four experiences we need to intentionally and regularly seek out, in order to enjoy the much needed renewal we need to combat the dangers of stress. Chronic stress substantially reduces one’s quality of life and can also be fatal. The other experiences being Hope, Mindfulness and Playfulness.
There’s a school of thought amongst ethicists which says there’s no such thing as selflessness as the giving agent always gains something. The gain may not be material; it could just be the satisfaction. Some other ethicists insist that the ultimate “good” that keeps the world’s wheel turning is neither selflessness, which may bring me the agent harm, nor crude selfishness, which would almost certainly cause others some sort of harm, but cooperative selfishness.
There’s an overwhelming joy which wells up from deep within you and soon envelopes your entire being when you give
This means me doing good not to please you only but because it serves our mutual interest. Enlightened self-interest may be a more recognizable term for this. This is why it has been said, “that an individual, group or even a commercial entity will ‘do well by doing good’.” Whatever side of the fence we stand on, studies in the field of emotional intelligence by respected psychologists, have shown that we do ourselves an untold amount of good when we show compassion to others. The gain here comes in the form of mental wellbeing and good physical health, which no-one can put a price on.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines compassion as the, “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Admittedly the degree may vary but most of us are compassionate beings who have an inmate desire to serve people around us. Many of us actually take delight in and find deep meaning in helping others to fulfill their goals. You only need to recall instances when pedestrians going their way would stop and without any prompting, take it upon themselves to clear traffic when they notice an unnecessary congestion; usually caused by the unwillingness of one motorist to give way for another. A problem which should never have occurred if only common sense or cooperative selfishness was allowed to prevail.
Compassion can also be described as love; showing love towards others by caring about or caring for them. Being in a loving relationship where it’s not all about you is extremely powerful in the way it’s able to alleviate our stress and stimulate renewal within us. All the more reason why it’s important we make sure our home is an oasis – a buffer from the stress of work and society in general. Sometimes, just to find yourself back home in the midst of your loving family is enough tonic. You wake up the next morning renewed in your mind and body and ready to face whatever it is the new day throws at you.
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Volunteering and doing things for people less fortunate than ourselves is a helpful act of compassion. Aside from the joy derived and benefits to yourself by giving, which we mentioned earlier, it also serves to take our minds off ourselves and our own challenges. Even the keeping of pets and caring for them invokes a similar experience of compassion as they provide an object to shower your love on.
They can’t pay you back but the joy they add to your day is payment enough. However, according to research, it’s only the pets you can stroke such as dogs, cats and horses that can actually engage you in a meaningful renewal process because it’s in the stroking of them that you build up a strong emotional bond. As much as the idea of keeping a dog as a pet may sound repugnant to the average Nigerian, there is something to be said about learning to care for something that cannot, in the regular sense, pay you back.
I often wonder if it’s the visible deviation from our inherent quality as human beings to be compassionate, and the gradually increasing leaning towards a “me, myself and I” attitude by an ever increasing number of Nigerians (as we follow the example of our leaders) that has put our society so out of whack in the last few decades? Contrary to what our young ones who aren’t old enough to have known a different Nigeria might think, the current attitude and state of things is an anomaly and not the norm. We were not like this.
Isn’t it strange how we seem to think differently after we’ve gone through these experiences of renewal? Whether the renewal came as a result of demonstrating compassion or from becoming more hopeful, we become more positive minded. Well, it’s not a coincidence. Renewal experiences are accompanied by neurogenesis. This is the production of new neural tissues which improves the functioning of our brain or mind. Now you know why solutions to seemingly intractable problems seem to just pop into your head when you deliberately take your mind off them. Be deliberate about showing compassion for others. If for nothing else, do it for yourself.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time.
Akande, Editor in Chief of EduTimes Africa magazine is a Surrey University graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. An Institute for National Transformation alumni, he has authored two books, The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. Contact: [email protected]