Compassion and the Family Business

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Chinese rulers of antiquity knew that compassion brings true inner peace. The Golden Rule, “Do onto others as you would have others do unto you,” originated in early Chinese rituals. Versions of the Golden Rule exist in the major world religions. In Christianity, as “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Islam states in the Qur’an, “Not one of you can be a believer unless he desires for his neighbour what he desires for himself.”

Human beings have always known that when life seems tough, home can be a place where we find love, compassion, and warmth. Because it is within our family that we feel reassured that someone understands and cares how we feel, compassion is a crucial element that makes up a strong and united family business. The compassion we witness and experience in our home inspires us to be more compassionate to others, ultimately strengthening the family business by establishing deep relationships within and outside the company.

Compassion happens when you personally acknowledge and understand a suffering person. This kindness arises by validating the other person’s experience, or as Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Acknowledging the other person’s battle brings you closer to their situation, validates their experience, and creates peace in yourself. Like gratitude and love and forgiveness, compassion heals all it touches. It radiates out as it resonates within.

Compassion is a universal human quality too often forgotten in the small moments of life. We underestimate the power of a smile, a kind word, a moment taken to listen. These are qualities each of us can consciously develop and strengthen.

For example, begin each day with a meditative moment of gratitude for your family and all the special people in your life. Then, demonstrate this gratitude by warmly and consciously greeting the first few people you see or talk with that day. Practice being conscious of your compassionate feelings with more and more people. Make it as natural as breathing. Bring your inner sense of love, forgiveness, and acceptance to each greeting, each time. You can do this this directly or silently. Scientists say this practice stimulates the prefrontal lobes of your brain that generate compassion and inner peace. In other words, by regularly practicing compassion—acknowledging and validating others—you are physically and emotionally improving your own well being.

A final, critical aspect of compassion is service to others. I believe this is a learned behaviour. Serving others must be practiced to become instinctive. Mother Teresa committed her life to treating India’s poor with compassion and love. She said, “I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness.” In that statement you recognise how committed she was to acknowledging the suffering of others. You feel her courage to place herself in situations where she lived with compassion, gave of herself, and undoubtedly drew resolve from that effort.

Each of us has opportunities every day to express compassion. We can serve by volunteering for our communities, schools, and charities. We serve our families by supporting ageing parents and grandparents. We serve each other by conducting our lives with the compassion to validate others.

Mother Teresa also said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Understanding and practicing compassion brings the realisation that we are all one people. The human race is our family tree. Compassion nurtures its growth, extends its branches, and flowers its existence. For, as Jamaican musician Bob Marley wrote, “One love, one heart, one destiny.” It is the basis of morality.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

Dalai Lama XIVThe Art of Happiness