Compassion is a funny thing isn’t it? Human emotions are complicated and difficult to understand; sometimes we can barely understand ourselves, let alone others. Motivations and reasons behind our actions and behaviours and responses can intersect, and finding the true root of a problem can seem impossible at times. Often, it isn’t the answer we expect.
Our world is a social place, and while it’s important to understand how our own emotions work, this is not enough all the time; we have to try to understand those of other people as well. This can be as basic as simple manners, to avoid causing offensive, or as complex as psychological studies, seeking the source of certain behaviours. Understanding others can be incredibly difficult and frustrating at times. Why do they behave differently around some people? What prompts their responses in different scenarios? And most complicated of all; what reaction do they want from us?
Often, we find ourselves in situations where we are desperate to help others, in times of anger or sadness or insecurity, but we don’t know how to do so. It can be difficult to really understand what someone has gone through, particularly traumatic events, meaning we can be sympathetic but not always empathetic. And different people have different needs in situations. Some reach out to people, while others draw in to themselves. It’s hard to watch someone we care about suffer and not know what to say or do in order to help them. We may find our efforts shoved away, or unappreciated. We may opt to not try at all, for fear or saying the wrong thing.
It’s important to respect what others need, be it time alone or an shoulder to cry on. Sometimes it’s enough just to be there, and words aren’t needed. Listen to the other person, and find out what they need from you. Putting yourself in their shoes can help, but remember that people react differently; what you would want, and what they want could be entirely different. Make yourself available to them, so even if they want time alone, they know there is someone they can turn to if they change their minds.
And of course, we have to accept that we cannot fix everybody. Emotions and issues can be even more complex than they initially appear on the surface, and usually there isn’t a quick fix. We can all help in small ways, from words of encouragement to friendly hugs; but there is no magic cure to making someone feel entirely better. We have to accept this, and not feel like we have failed if our efforts don’t fix everything. Just be there for the person, and so what you can. Even if it doesn’t feel like enough, don’t give up. The world is a tough place, and all need help surviving in it.