Compassion is wanting to alleviate the pain of others. Both humans and dogs want to help people who are hurting.
But the humans frequently get the helping wrong.
When dog senses a person is hurting, we try comfort them. We offer a wagging tail for a stranger. We accept the petting and ear scritches which make the us feel as good as the human.
For our personal human, we take it further. Kisses and snuggles. Curling up in a warm lap. Sympathetic puppy eyes.
When a human senses a person is hurting, they want them to feel better. They want to help that person, so they try to fix them.
Nope. Nope. Nope. That is not the way to help.
Dogs don’t try to fix people. We comfort them. Then we go on with our lives. We don’t feel the need to change our life to fix yours.
When Suzanne is sad, I snuggle up by her, so she can pet me while I nap. But when naptime is over, she still needs to take me for a walk. If she doesn’t, she will put me in the yard to get some exercise. I can get my exercise doing dog things. I find plenty of ways to amuse myself. Digging is always fun. Rolling in smelly things is fun.
I don’t stop being myself because Suzanne has a problem. In fact, that is how I help her. She would rather take me for a walk than fill in holes in the back yard or give me a bath if I have a really good rolling-in-smells day.
So she gets out and takes me for a walk, which is perfect. She does it for me, but it is what she needs, too. She needs to think of others (namely me.) She needs to remember that good things are still happening outside of her problems. She sees birds and flowers and kids playing. She remembers that life is good.
Human “help” by fixing. They give a hurting person advice. They give directions to feel different. They explain why the other person shouldn’t feel so bad. Tell them to feel another way. Humans actually tell each other that they are wrong about their own feels!
Humans explain, advise, blame, and sometimes even punish a person who is hurting. They look for reasons for the sad-making thing and too often the reason does not help. Humans throw words at pain that can’t be healed with words. This is not compassion.
Compassion is indeed central to every one of the major world religions --but sometimes you would never know it. Karen Armstrong
Dogs know bad things happen. We feel sad when they happen. But we know that if we can’t change a thing, we have to just feel the sad.
I was sad when I first came to live with Suzanne because I missed my family. Suzanne used a lot of words. (She’s human; she can’t help it.) But since I am a dog, I didn’t understand most of them. It didn’t matter. She was petting me and sending me the “it’s going to be okay” energy that I needed. Eventually I felt better. I still miss my old family, but I am happy with new family now.
one more way
dogs are superior to humans.
1. Accept the other human’s feels.
2. Comfort the other human’s feels. No words. Maybe a hug or a plate of cookies. (If they don’t want the cookies, you can give them to me!)
3. Move on and invite the sad human to come with you.
© Copyright Suzanne Grosser