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40. Regarding the Heart of Learning & Teaching pt 2

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Good Morning Families, today is Tuesday May 19th 2020 and it is now time for a Moment of SEL.

We are continuing our work with the Heart of Learning and Teaching by looking at a duality in compassion. But first, to remind you, compassion is a feeling of deep empathy and respect for another who is stricken by misfortune and the strong desire to actively do something about it. It is the human quality of understanding the suffering of others paired with the desire to help alleviate it.

But the duality that can exist when cultivating compassion is compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue.

Compassion satisfaction is fun to say and it sounds like the name of a super peppy and fancy show choir! Lot’ of sparkle motion with compassion satisfaction!

Compassion fatigue sounds more like a goth show choir with outfits from Hot Topic.

Like we heard yesterday compassion satisfaction refers to pleasant feelings associated with recognizing that your efforts to help someone who is suffering, are working, and things are improving for that person or group. The feelings associated with compassion satisfaction can be used to motivate us to work for the uplift of others.

The flip side is compassion fatigue. Fatigue can mean weariness or exhaustion from hard work or stress. It can also mean to be worn down. It is not usually used to represent positive things. So if you’ve worked hard all day you might say you’re tired or exhausted, and that could feel good depending on how you view your progress toward your goal. However, if you work hard day after day after day you may become fatigued. That is, you're worn down, like the way too hard butter will crush the center of your toast. Who likes ripped toast?

Compassion fatigue is a set of feelings and thinking that is unpleasant and comes from working hard for others and feeling that your work is not helping at all. Day after day after day. It’s very important to be able to recognize compassion fatigue because it can lead to many other unpleasant feelings such as burnout, that’s when you just can’t bring yourself to invest in a job anymore, helplessness which is a feeling that you can’t do anything about a situation, and hopelessness, which is a feeling that no matter what the situation will end up bad. Ouch. Those are some really unpleasant feelings and they really affect people’s quality of life.

So, do you want to be able to feel the difference between compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue? Great! Me too. There are many ways to do this so know that there is no right or wrong if something works for you. But here is one way, try to wear the world like a loose garment. What does that mean?

The quote, “Wearing the world like a loose garment” is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, but, you can find the sentiment or meaning in nearly all cultures, the Tehillim, in the Qur’an, all over traditions from and in Asia and Africa, in human secularism and even in psychology.

So, what does “wearing the world like a loose garment” mean? Well first, in this context, a garment is an article of clothing. Like a t-shirt. Try to think of the world as a big soft t-shirt. Maybe it’s your best, “comfy” shirt. That is, you feel comfortable in it, but it doesn’t take your attention when it’s on, unless you want it to.

You know your shirt is on, and you wouldn’t go outside without it, but it doesn’t consume your day or your feelings. That’s the mindset you’ll want to be able to hold when you are working with compassion, because compassion is working for others. And when you are working for others, there is only so much you have control over. At the end of the day, if you do your part in a compassionate way, then that is the best you can do, and it will be on the person or people you are helping, to really choose the outcome.

That is not to suggest that you don’t care about the outcome, you want people to be in uplift and you want to stop suffering; very noble. However, you don’t want to make yourself “the most special snowflake ever” you don’t want to slip into aggrandizing, or believing yourself to be a savior, or rescuer, and you don’t want to build your entire self-concept on the outcomes of what you do for others, those are all traps of the ego. They can lead to compassion fatigue. That can actually work to disempower others, which can be the opposite of how compassion can help.

Helping others is important work and it matters but you need to know that there are far too many variables that we don’t have control over for other people. Think about what’s going on right now. These are serious times we are in. Many, many people are suffering in many, many ways. We have very little control over what is happening but the desire to help may be great, so if you’re not careful it could be easy to slip into compassion fatigue. There is very little that we can do other than follow the directions and advice of the medical professionals and scientists. They are the leaders and it is okay to follow their lead.

Now if you are able to recognize how others are suffering maybe you could use your energy to try to give them some support. That are many, many little, local ways to help and focusing on the little, local things we can do to help those around us can be a great use of compassion. I can’t tell you what those things you can do are, because there are so many cultures and contexts that I don’t know from where I am. But you can talk with a trusted adult or peer and brainstorm some ways to help.

If you choose something to do, and it works, great! Compassion satisfaction abounds. But if you choose something to do and it doesn’t work, try something else. Either way, use your awareness to recognize your thoughts and feelings.

We look forward to connecting with you in whatever way we can tomorrow. Until tomorrow, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.

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