If there were a magical remedy that would make you happier and healthier, would you buy it? It seems like something you’d find in an old apothecary jar with fancy script spelling out the words, “Snake Oil.” Well, I’m going to give you the remedy for free, and it doesn’t come from a bottle—it’s actually something you already have available to you. You don’t have to be a DIY expert to create this cure, because it only has one ingredient: compassion.
Compassionate people are happier, their bodies produce 23% less cortisol, and they also produce 100% more DHEA—a hormone that counteracts the aging process. The list of benefits goes on, such as having a higher degree of self-satisfaction and inner peace, a higher quality of relationships, and the ability to create cultures of loyalty. So, we all have the cure at our fingertips—anyone on the planet can access it. We just need to exercise the compassion we already possess, both toward others and ourselves.
Like many other positive character traits, compassion is linked to how well we relate to others. There are those who are independent, those who are dependent, and those who strike the balance of interdependence, which is the perfect form of give and take. The following is an old parable that demonstrates how universally important the capacity for interdependence is:
An inquisitive man once petitioned God for a glimpse of the afterlife. “God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.” God agreed to the man’s request and showed the man two large, ornate doors. He opened one of the doors, and positioned in the middle of the room was a large round table with a huge, bubbling pot of stew at its center. The aroma was extraordinarily delicious and made the man’s mouth water. There were many people seated around the table, but every one of them was thin and sickly—they appeared to be famished. They were all holding spoons with very long handles, and although they were able to easily scoop stew from the pot, each found it impossible to take a bite because their arms were splinted and would not bend, and the handle was too long to reach their mouths. The man shuddered at the site of their misery and suffering. God said, “You have seen Hell. Now, let me show you Heaven.” Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same as the first. There was a large, round table with the bubbling pot of wonderful stew that made the man’s mouth water as it had before. The people had the same long handled spoon, but they were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The man said, “I don’t understand.” God smiled. “It is simple,” He said, “love only requires one skill. Those people learned early on to share and feed one another. The greedy only think of themselves.”
This story might seem far-fetched, but it exemplifies the importance of compassion for truly successful living. The statistics may shock you: according to globalissues.org, 80% of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day, and over 3 billion (almost half the world) live on less than $2.50 a day. Just like the pot of stew, the earth’s resources are very capable of feeding all of its inhabitants, but those of us who are part of the fortunate 20% don’t always grasp the need. Living in the US where we are blessed with an abundance of resources, we routinely throw food and other valuable commodities in the trash. Think what a difference it would make, not only in the recipients of our compassion but also in ourselves, if we were to instead share our abundance with those in need. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands.
You see, compassionately investing our time in others is the biggest gift we can give another person. We have only so many hours, days, and years left. How we spend those hours demonstrates how well we share the bounty that God has blessed us with. Investing in others will not only help our fellow man, but will help us to lay up treasures in heaven that we will partake of for eternity.
Lodestar Guidance Founder