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On Compassion and Love Login/Join 
<w.c.>
posted
Over the past few months I've been reflecting on the basic ingredients of love, and how it is so easily misunderstood, or assumed to exist in certain relationships when what might be happening is something else. Below is the reality test for me, but I'd benefit from hearing others treat it from their own point-of-view.

Compassion involves two basic features:

1) Understanding: some sense of the other person�s experience from their point-of-view, and by implication, some sense of our own internal life, including tendencies, vulnerabilities, areas of shame and limitation, as well as our more mature qualities. This kind of understanding, of course, is called empathy, which includes intuition and insight to varying degrees.

2) Respect/appreciation: a sense of the other�s uniqueness, and separateness, and an acceptance that they are their own person with both deficiencies and virtues, just as we most certainly are. The other person, regardless of their degree of trustworthiness or divergent beliefs, is recognized as a fellow human who suffers and struggles.

These first two features of compassion generate the capacity for honest and respectful communication, both verbal and nonverbal; they are also the basis of forgiveness, to the extent that human beings are capable of that virtue without divine benediction. Compassion may even require we be distant from the other person, if issues of trust and congruence are severely impaired. As such, we can forgive without being close or approving of the other's behavior. We can have compassion when we need to forceably constrain the other from hurting ourselves or others. The third and fourth aren�t necessary for genuine compassion, but appear when compassion includes love.

3) Trust: often unspoken, it is the sense that the other person is known well enough for his or her integrity in relationships and can be counted on, though not perfectly, to keep his word. There is a sense that the person�s words, behavior and energy, or presence, is fairly congruent. We can share the darker secrets of our lives with people who have earned our trust, to varying degrees.

4) Closeness: a sharing of a common life to some extent. There is an intimate warmth, or sympathetic affection, more dearly sensed than just the warmth of compassionate regard, and the two together are still distinguishable, especially when the bonds of closeness are temporarily breached. We often feel more ourselves, more attuned, at ease, when we are around those we are close to; they bring out the best in us, and we in them.

Interestingly enough, closeness without the other three is usually a dependency that exploits the other person�s well being.
 
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I like that very much, w.c. It captures the kind of empathetic attunement that I associate with compassion, and the choice-for-relationship that I believe essential for love.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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W.C. I really enjoyed this piece.... and agree with you. I would like to add one final thought though... well maybe a couple... Smiler
Love is also transformative.... not only of us and of those we love, but also I think of all those around us. I guess you could say it spreads....
Love opens the possibilities within us...celebrates not only who we are but also who we will be... Love allows - encourages growth.
Last, there is an intentionality to love... love is faithful.
Peace,
Wanda
 
Posts: 278 | Location: Pennslyvania | Registered: 12 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
posted
Wanda said:

" . . . there is an intentionality to love... love is faithful."

Yes, definitely a central aspect of the trust that isn't dependent upon feeling good about each other. But it could be a fifth piece all by itself, as in commitment. As the sense of closness wanes from time to time, we remain commited through faith. But eventually the relationship needs renewal through understanding and respect; otherwise people can sit stagnant in a relationship out of fear of increased self-awareness (i.e, out of fear of the trasformative nature of love you mentioned), which wouldn't be indicative of a living faith anyway. But I guess this is what you may mean by "intentionality."
 
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<w.c.>
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Here's an update on the origninal post with some reflections that include some of Wanda's input:

On Compassion and Love

1) Understanding: some sense of the other person�s experience from their point-of-view, and by implication, some sense of our own internal life, including tendencies, vulnerabilities, areas of shame and limitation, as well as our more mature qualities. Even though we cannot actually know another person�s experience just as they do with all its qualities, it is crucial that we wonder about it and take it seriously; this receptivity may quicken moments of intuition that impart a glimpse of how life is for them inside their skin. This kind of understanding, of course, is often called empathy, which includes intuition and insight to varying degrees. This sort of understanding is relational and cannot be gained through abstraction, although reading about it may activate the wound and longing for it.

2) Respect/appreciation: a sense of the other�s uniqueness, and separateness, and an acceptance that they are their own person with both deficiencies and virtues, just as we most certainly are. The other person, regardless of their degree of trustworthiness, is a fellow human who suffers and struggles. Our understanding is utilized to gain a compassionate picture of the other person that isn�t condescending, since we are honest about our own imperfections and capacity for selfish intent. This respect for the other is substantial without being perfect. We recognize that our helping others can be intrusive, and strive to help others help themselves, rather than having to do it for them because they refuse to grow up.

These first two features of compassion generate the capacity for honest and respectful communication, both verbal and nonverbal; they are also the basis of forgiveness, to the extent that human beings are capable of that virtue without divine benediction. Forgiveness, as such, sees the imperfections shared by self and other. Moreover, compassion may even require we be distant from the other person, if issues of trust and congruence are severely impaired. The third and fourth below aren�t necessary for genuine compassion, but appear when compassion includes love.

3)Trust: often unspoken, it is the sense that the other person is known well enough for his or her integrity in relationships and can be counted on, though not perfectly, to keep his word. There is a sense that the person�s words, behavior and energy, or presence, is fairly congruent, with a sense of safety in their presence, both physically and emotionally, which allows us to �let them in.� We can share the darker secrets of our lives with people who have earned our trust, to varying degrees, and we know our disclosures will be kept in confidence. In this bond we know the other person desires our well being and growth.
4)Closeness: a sharing of a common life to some extent. There is an intimate warmth, or sympathetic affection, more dearly sensed that just the warmth of compassionate regard, and the two together are still distinguishable, especially when the bonds of closeness are temporarily breached. We often feel more ourselves, more attuned, at ease, when we are around those we are close to; they bring out the best in us, and we in them. Genuine closeness transforms us and our surroundings. Without the previous three qualities of compassion and love, closeness degenerates into mere dependency.

5) Commitment: some dedication to the value of the relationship recognized as bigger than both individuals, which sustains them during periods when closeness wanes. This commitment involves communication that renews understanding and respect, the basis of trust making intimacy possible. We are aware of the difference between commitment and the fantasy of loyalty, or mere obligation based on fear.

Each of these cornerstones of human connectedness builds upon the one before it. We can, for instance, have understanding without respect, although understanding tends to lead to at least some minimal degree of respect. A person who has hurt us deeply can be seen as having made their choices partly out of prior conditioning, and even though this doesn�t compel us to trust them, we can appreciate the struggle that life has been for them. And so trust may not appear in certain relationships where one understands there to be a significant lack of congruence between oneself and the other. In fact, it may be compassionate to know this and not attempt to force closeness in such situations.
 
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Hi Everybody!

Hello! After all these months I realise that I could have disagreed more agreeably in the earlier forums that I participated. So my genuine apologies for having hurt anybody's feelings unwittingly. I'm working on my communication style very very seriously now. I realise too there will be ocassions when I will hold different opinions, so it is necessary to learn to express myself without making anybody lose face.

The topic of love seems to be the ideal forum in which to come back and say hello.

The following books have influenced me very much:
1. 'Unconditional Love', John Powell SJ
2. 'The Road Less Travelled', M. Scott Peck
3. 'Women Who Love too Much', Robin Norwood
4. 'Obsessive Love', Susan Forward
5. 'The Art of Loving' Erich Fromm

So what have I learnt? It takes two to form any kind of relationship, be it romantic love or friendship. All the heroic efforts on the part of one person doesn't help if the other person is not interested. That is why even God doesn't come into our lives if we don't want Him in it.
 
Posts: 158 | Registered: 14 February 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Good to hear from you again, Priya! Smiler

I think your sharing can make a contribution to this topic, for we really do need a certain level of detachment and boundaries in order to truly love and show compassion. The books you've described are excellent resources for learning to better grow in those areas. I know people in their 70s who really need to read them, so it's never too late to learn those lessons.

Let's hear from you again soon.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thanks for welcoming me back, Phil! Smiler

I see that this thread has been closed and others have been opened for discussion, so I don't want to interrupt the flow by continuing a discussion here.

Thanks once again and I sure will drop in ocassionally when I feel the urge to add my two cents worth. I ocassionally do read some of the interesting discussions in which I don't participate in anyway.

Keep up the good work! See you all again sometime!
 
Posts: 158 | Registered: 14 February 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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This thread is still very much open, priya. Feel free to continue with your sharing, if you'd like.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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