Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Compassion and happiness

A while back I posted up 10 thoughts on happiness. I was looking over the list this morning and thought I would be a good idea to delve deeper in to one of these: My happiness is not your happiness.

What this does to say: It does not mean we should not share our happiness with others; it does not mean that we have to take away the happiness we feel and keep it hidden from others.

What is does mean is we should not feel guilty for feeling happy. It is human nature to try to pick others up when they are feeling down, this is good it is part of being compassionate. But when act in this way we some times take on the other persons sorrow rather than giving them some of our joy. The giving of joy does not define it, the taking on of sorrow only increases the sorrow for now it is felt by two instead of one. When we take on the sorrow of others we do not lessen their pain but remind them that they are not alone.

Think about this: You are walking along a country road one day and see a truck stuck in the mud. You stop to help the driver get the car unstuck and in the process get splattered with sticky smelly mud. The other person thanks you and goes on their way. What is the first thing we would try to do? Go home and clean up, take a shower rinse the mud out of our hair.

Emotionally we need to get rid of the mud. When we sit and talk with those who are down we do not need to hold on to their sorrow as if it is our own. We have to guard our happiness, not just for ourselves but so that we are more available to listen to others, to dive in to the mud pits and help others out.

I want to make it clear that if we wish to act compassionately, which if eel is a better way to live then acting selfishly, we must strive to eliminate sorrow and suffering where we have the tools to do so. But taking another's pain into our selves does not do this. We should help carry their burdens but not make their burdens our own.