The past few weeks we have talked quite a bit about self-love and self- compassion. This week, I would really like to touch on the other end of the spectrum… compassion and love for others.
(If you missed our blogs on self-love and compassion, feel free to check those out first!: Increasing Self-Love, Being Single and Happy Regardless of What Society Says, The Importance of Self-Love)
Now that we know all about self-compassion, and what it really means to have self-love… do we REALLY know what it means to have compassion for others? According to Dictionary.com compassion is a noun that is defined by “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” In other words, compassion is a feeling we have towards others when we see that they can use some help, and we want to be the ones to help them.
In the past few weeks, remembering the importance of love and compassion for others has really shed some serious light in my life… and I use that term with no pun intended; although it happens to be very fitting.
About two weeks ago, my friend and I were walking our two dogs in our neighborhood when we saw a figure in the distance that seemed to be wandering around aimlessly. Unsure of what it was, and being the curious people that we are, we immediately decided that we needed to find out what it was and where it was headed.
Our dogs seemed just as intrigued in the mysterious figure as we were which should have been our first clue as to what it was…
As we quickly rounded the corner, we had a brief interaction with a couple sitting in their car. They yelled over to us that we should proceed with caution and be careful because there was a stray dog on the loose- and it was BIG. We asked the couple if they had tried to see if the dog had a collar, or if they had called the authorities or a vet/pet alliance. They ignored all of these questions and just re-stated that “the dog was very big and probably dangerous”. All things considered, of course this could have been true… but the thing that really did not sit well with us was, what if it wasn’t? Were we really just supposed to turn the other cheek and to pretend like this dog wasn’t lost, afraid, and alone because it wasn’t a small puppy, or cute and cuddly looking?
My friend and I decided that with consideration to the size of this “monster dog” and the hyperactive personalities of our two pups, it may be best to take them back to her house before we continued to pursue the stray.
Once we had brought our dogs home and headed back out, it was only a matter of SECONDS before we saw the big dog again- and only a few more seconds before she ran right over to us. Now that we were practically nose-to-nose with each other we could see that she was a relatively large Pitbull mix, with the most beautiful brindle coat and light brown eyes. Unfortunately, it was also very obvious that it had been a while (if ever) that this sweet girl had been fed properly or groomed in any way. Her nails were practically curling back into her paws (with an exception to a few broken ones), and her ribs looked as if they were ready to break through her skin.
We went door-to-door for a good hour and half asking people in the neighborhood if maybe she was theirs, or if they could recognize her as a dog they had seen before- with absolutely no luck. Most people stayed behind there slightly opened doors to tell us they had never seen this dog before. But, there was one couple who came out to meet our newly found friend. After coming outside to talk to my friend and I (and petting the dog), they said they were shocked at how well-behaved and mannered she was, but they had never seen her before either. But, they were kind enough to try and help us come up with some ideas for what should be our next move in finding her owners- or a new home.
We ended up taking our new friend back to the house and making her a little home in the garage until we could find out her whole story. As much as we wanted to bring her inside the house, we also couldn’t risk her carrying any worms/fleas/etc. and being around our dogs… By the next day, we had brought her to the vet and found out that she was, in fact, microchipped. We tried contacting her previous owners for days, to no avail. It struck us as odd that a pet owner would not be frantic about their “fur-child” being missing, and ecstatic to get the call that she had been found- safe and sound.
Finally, days later, they returned our calls and let us know that they actually had no interest in bringing her back home. It became abundantly clear to us that this dog did not “go missing” or “run-away”, but rather was sent away on purpose. The previous owners let us know that the dog we found is 3.5 years old, and was never house-trained because she was never allowed indoors. They said, because they lived over an hour away, that they would not be coming to get her- so we could feel free to find her a new home.
It was at this point that our level of compassion for this dog went through the roof. When we first found this dog we felt bad for her because people were judging her before even getting to know her, to feeling sorry for her because we couldn’t find her true owners, to even more sorry for her when we did… to pure heartbreak when we learned of what a rough life she has endured so far, by no fault of her own. And yet she still manages to be such a sweet and loving dog.
This story about Elizabeth (as we have named her), seems to really be about more than just compassion to others, but also about resilience; and it can be applied to so many different situations. It doesn’t just have to be about other abandoned/stray dogs. We can compare this story to people who are judged before even given a chance to show their true colors. We can also use this story to remind ourselves not to be those people who judge others before giving them a chance to show their true colors. Because, as this experience clearly demonstrates, a person (or in this particular case a dog) doesn’t necessarily have to do something wrong in order to suffer the consequences someone else bestows on them.
Elizabeth also demonstrated a great level of resilience, which is something we can all appreciate. It may seem funny to be taking notes on the way a dog handles life, but there is definitely something to be said about a creature who has had the odds stacked against her, and who has hit rock bottom, but still treats others with nothing but kindness and a big heart.
There are so many Elizabeth’s in the world, so please remember this story the next time you meet someone and make any rash judgments about who they are and what they represent before really getting to know them. She was an excellent reminder of why it is so important to show all people compassion and give everyone a fair chance before making any hasty decisions about a person’s character. So take some time to get to know people before deciding to write them off as good or bad; because you never truly know how great someone can be, unless you give them the opportunity to rise to their full potential. A little kindness can go such a long way.
Are you struggling to show and feel compassion towards others in your life, or simply feel that you do not as you should? Sometimes having a partner in your journey can help. Give us a call to set up a free phone consultation at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378, and one of our Orlando Individual Counselors, Orlando Life Coaches, Orlando Teen Counselors, and Orlando Child counselors would be more than happy to help you, a family member, or a friend work on changing your life.