June 2021: Compassion and overcoming the selfish nature of it all

June 2021: Compassion and overcoming the selfish nature of it all

Text: Rahat Kapur

If you Google the definition of the word compassion, you'll find the description below:

"Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others."

Rather cynical if I say so myself.

It's funny how when we think of empathising with others, it can often be unintentionally done so as an act of commiseration or condolence and not as much so as outreach and connection. Compassion more often than not becomes a kind of self-serving heroic pedestal we can place ourselves upon — even if inadvertently so, giving us a way to feel proud of our contributions and kindness to someone or something around us but at the benefit of ourselves more than theirs. Hence the description above.

But how do you define compassion if not with the above? Isn't compassion rooted in empathy? Isn't it the intangible force that binds humanity and allows us to see through the other's eyes? Is it not the collective sharing of one another's burdens and suffering?

Well, though impalpable at the best of times, I believe true compassion is sometimes best captured through the actions we choose to undertake, leaving a long-lasting and profound legacy on those and the world around us. These are the actions that stem from empathy, but take on a form much greater than what sympathy or pity could ever offer. Instead, it focuses on driving real, tangible change that doesn't just understand the plight of others, but rather looks to remove it or lessen its harm or impact. True compassion – for me, lies in the act of doing so, even when it is hard to, giving so, even when you cannot give anymore and bringing joy to, even when it feels impossible to. It's a true act of selflessness and awareness, in a way that removes us from the equation entirely and doesn't celebrate saving or being saved, but rather, hearing, listening, understanding and connecting. Where empathy can be passive, compassion is deliberate. Where pity can be divisive, compassion is unifying. Where kindness can be fleeting, compassion is resounding.

And that's why, we're focusing on exploring compassion at BURO. Singapore across June.

From shining a light on local activists spurring for change and representation across minority groups in Singapore, to highlighting and celebrating the tireless and often thankless work that essential workers do during trying times to placing a spotlight on the unique journeys of growth and self-acceptance of those suffering from chronic skin conditions, disabilities and obsessive mental disorders, we're not afraid to push the boundaries. With World Environment Day on June 5 to World Food Safety Day on June 7 and World Refugee Day on June 20, this month is uniquely pertinent in drawing attention to many of the causes we all feel passionate about and the stories we wish to tell.

In turn, we hope these and any other stories shared can set alight the sparks of conversation often required to influence real change across areas from sustainability to social justice to self-acceptance to seeking support. And whilst these conversations can seem uncomfortable at the best of times, they're still very much worth the dialogue.

Stay safe and stay kind.