Evaluating the Benefits of Compassion

Evaluating the Benefits of Compassion

© GLOW IMAGES Models used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

Compassion – in today’s hurried lives, is it worth personal time, energy, and money it takes to express compassion? The answer in terms of common humanity is yes. But many may not know the health-giving effects of compassion and its accompanying feeling of happiness.

In “The Best Kept Secret to Happiness: Compassion,” Emma M. Seppala, Ph.D. discusses how people are constantly searching for happiness, and that giving of ourselves generates happiness within. Seppala is the Associate Director for the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, where she focuses on health psychology, well-being, and resilience. She has found that acts of compassion make other people happy, which in turn allows those who received compassion to express compassion in their own lives.

Dan Gilbert, host of This Emotional Life, a PBS broadcast, discusses the link between happiness and compassion and that there are many incorrect views about how to obtain happiness. Seppala shows though that “compassion and service don’t just make us happy but they also have a host of other associated benefits and they even contribute to a longer life.” Seppala also concludes from the research of Ed Diener and Martin Seligman that connecting with others in a meaningful way helps to cultivate better mental and physical health.

And even more than cultivating better mental and physical health, compassion opens our innate spiritual capacities. It is our way of expressing Divine love to each other, mirroring the Divine’s love for us. In his book “The Compassionate Mind,” psychologist Paul Gilbert, who heads the Mental Health Research Unit at the University of Derby (UK), writes, “that the essence of compassion is being here, now, with another – not there, then, with your thoughts.” He addresses the importance of compassion in developing emotional well-being by promoting spiritual growth.

This human connecting with others – and the compassion expressed – is evident in the story that a local trolley car driver told a relative of mine. He expressed what writer and theologian Mary Baker Eddy wrote in the late 1800’s, “…we find that whatever blesses one blesses all, as Jesus showed with the loaves and the fishes…”

For the past two years I have given afternoon trolley rides to Tom and his special-needs friends. Marie did not speak for the first year. Mike calls me Captain and always repeats what I say. Don is always very nervous about when we’ll be stopping at the end of our three laps. Mark puts out his thumb to hitchhike when we pull up. He loves wrestling and watches it every Monday evening. If the trolley doesn’t have other guests, Mark and I sometimes talk about wrestlers past and present. The gang knows my favorite wrestler is George “the Animal” Steele from the 1970′s. George, who looked like the Missing Link, was known for eating the turnbuckle between the ropes during his matches. Recently Marie had on a Santa cap and bright red Christmas sweater. Tom carried a brown supermarket bag, which I thought was his lunch. Inside the bag was my Christmas present, an old action figure doll of George “the Animal” Steele! Tom said they wanted to thank me for the many special rides over the past two years. Mark said I looked like George and they all laughed.

Compassion for others, for every individual, is a worthwhile pursuit, one that benefits everyone involved – mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Article first published in Blogcritics.

About the author

Don Ingwerson Don regularly blogs on health and spirituality and lives in Laguna Beach with his wife - both Christian Science practitioners. He brings his years serving the public in education to his work as a liaison of Christian Science, where he maintains contacts with the media and legislative offices.

Comments

  1. Dan Miller says

    Thanks, great article…it went so well with last weeks Bible Lesson, Love…and its primary theme to love one another. Love is reflected in love. How can we love God, whom we don’t see, if we don’t love our fellow man whom we do see? Thanks again!

  2. Ann says

    The expression of compassion is a force that changes the lives of all involved for the better, the power of love.

  3. says

    Don, nice reminder. I often think of the passage in I John 4:8 “He that loveth not knoweth not God.” The second greatest commandment should be the model for our behavior, especially toward those we don’t know, or from whom we do not expect an acknowledgment, or perhaps have just acted in such a way that suggested a response quite the opposite.

  4. Nancy says

    Don, you’re absolutely right, expressing compassion brings happiness. Once I retired, after a life time of helping others, I felt like I ran out of “gas.” The longer I was retired the more useless I felt. I started phoning people (internet is not an option for some) and they seemed so delighted to have someone to talk with. This led to making plans for lunch. Now I’m reaping the benefits — what joy these contacts bring.

    Thanks for your proactive approach to the COP office.

  5. sue says

    Just taking the time to express love, care & thoughtfulness does make a difference. It says ” I love you– you matter– you are worthy of love. Knowing that God is the source of love makes it universal and always available. There are infinite ways to express compassion and kindness and all people involved feel its power and might. Thanks for sharing the article and ideas. Good is contagious! :-)

  6. says

    Thanks Don this was a really good story you shared. Last October, I read an article in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly publication I take, titled “Enveloped in Love” and the author wrote about how sometimes he didn’t give the presence of Love enough room in his thought. If we are being compassionate then Love is at the forefront of our thought and the presence of Love encompasses our being and that flows out to all those we encounter, at the grocery store, the bank, next door, or just across the street.

    Compassion is definitely a health giving feeing. It brings joy and happiness into our thought and a sense of appreciation to those upon whom we show it. To me compassion is probably the most important quality a person can express. If everyone had even a small sense of compassion for his fellow man there would be less crime, less greed, less selfishness, less anger, less jealousy. Compassion covers it all.