Cultivating and Nurturing Compassion in Times of Change and Conflict

by | Feb 15, 2021

Recent blog entries from Loyola colleagues about the need to nurture compassion, mercy and love invite me to contemplate the role of compassion in my own life and within the communities where I live and serve. Acutely, I become aware of the lack of compassion within and around me in this time of global pandemic and political, social, and ecological upheaval.

My reflections brought me to review once again the wisdom from Joyce Rupp’s 2018 publication on  Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life.  This has been a meaningful resource for my learning and reflection on this important virtue as I strive to deepen my relationships with others, while offering self-compassion to myself.  Today, I write to share some of the wisdom gleaned from Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life with hope that you too might find light-filled insight and strategies for nurturing your own compassion, mercy and love as you walk through these times of change and conflict.

I completely agree with Joyce Rupp, that, “In today’s society it often seems as if cruelty is more extensive than kindness.”  I think she is “right on” when she describes our global situation as “broken, wounded, violent, damaged, divisive…. Only with compassion at the core of humanity’s lived experience will we be able to approach one another with true respect and dwell in peacefulness.”

My favorite activity from Rupp’s several suggested exercises was to draw a “Tree of Compassion,” which started my personal reflections:

  • Roots: Your life experiences that provide a strong foundation for the practice of compassion.
    • Trunk: Personal qualities and characteristics that enable you to be a conduit of compassion.
    • Branches: Situations and circumstances that challenge you to reach out with compassion.
    • Leaves: Ways in which you have received compassion.
    • Fruit: Specific ways you have offered compassion to self and others.

I invite you to draw your own “Tree of Compassion” and, then, ponder ways you might nurture your “Tree of Compassion” in 2021. 

In closing, I share two quotes of wisdom from Rupp’s book, suggesting what we need to develop and practice in order to nurture compassion.

From the Dalai Lama, An Open Heart:

“In the first step toward a compassionate heart, we must develop our empathy or closeness to others.”

From Macrina Wiederkehr, Abide:

“Love is a spiritual practice. It doesn’t happen automatically, we have to practice loving.”

Now, consider these last weeks of winter as opportunity for reflection on your capacity for compassion.

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