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Compassion: A “Universal” Value, Essay Example

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It is, quite candidly, difficult to look over the core values of the university and select one that has particular meaning to my life. On one level, these values are inherently linked to one another, and a focus on one must involve discussion of the others. Integrity and justice, for example, must always go hand-in-hand. Then, I confess that I fear a concentration on one value might imply that I think less of the others, when the reality is that, in my own life, all have profound meaning for me.

That disclaimer of sorts given, I wish to comment on the value I am most committed to, which is compassion. It may be supposed that, as a wife and mother, this is an inevitable – and feminine – choice. After all, women are expected to be sources of compassion, at least historically, and motherhood in particular is virtually synonymous with the quality. For a moment, in fact, I veered from my choice, not wishing to be viewed as quite so stereotypical. Then my greater impulses took command, and I held to my choice. I am, moreover, proud of it.

I rather think that compassion is far too commonly viewed as a passive essence. It listens, it cares, it understands, and it consoles. It is hardly aggressive, and it does not typically command the respect that a pronounced sense of justice, or overt integrity, does. I can confidently assert, however, and as a wife and mother, that compassion is an active, potent, and immeasurably valuable quality to possess. It is a precious thing, and it never just “happens”. Moreover, I could not know this so absolutely were I not a woman who has both benefited enormously from it, and employed it for the happiness of my own family, and of those around me.

Compassion is, to me, empathy.  It is understanding in its purest form, occurring when a soul feels what another is feeling. I believe that this is a natural inclination, or ability, in some people; I like to think I am among them. Nonetheless, and with no disparaging of its value, compassion is work. It is an effort of the heart, mind, and soul. It demands a setting aside of one’s own, immediate concerns to connect with the essence of another. Perhaps this is why compassion is so identified with women and mothers. Not to put too fine a point to it, but we are very adept at placing the needs of others before our own, as I do, lovingly and willingly, with my son and my husband.

I am, actually, very fortunate in that I have been blessed with both great energy and a true love of people, for these gifts go to fueling my compassionate impulse. What I also find, as I move through my life and seek to practice compassion, is that, as noted earlier, the quality actually encompasses the other core values. It relies upon them, in fact.  Justice cannot be truly known without the deep understanding of individual concerns compassion brings, as integrity must be present for compassion to be sincerely generated; that is, no one else can be compassionately understood if there is no foundation of strength and ethics within the person expressing it. As for the value of service, I am tempted to ask: what greater service can we offer to one another, than true understanding?

As I stated, compassion is hardly an easy course to take. There are times when we are unable to do that essential thing and set ourselves aside, and this is true for me even, occasionally, when dealing with my own son. What I have learned, however, is that the rewards of it are extraordinary and unexpected.   Compassion is truly a gift that gives back, for I receive, not only the humane advantage of insight into another soul, but a confirmation of my own. The more I exercise compassion, with my family or with others, the more I am able to understand the workings of my own being, and to fully see how ultimately connected we all are. This is, for me, the core value with the greatest meaning because it is the core value most reflective of what we are as human beings, and what we must aspire to.

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