Collective Healing Through Understanding And Compassion

When a community experiences losses together, we call it “collective grief.” And we can move through collective grief together when we lean on each other for support.

With the ongoing pandemic, climate crisis, and a recent increase in suicides and mass shootings, that “community experiencing loss” includes just about everyone in the world.

This unity has the potential to be a powerful tool for collective healing, but it can be difficult to lean on each other when the world is as polarized and as full of pain as it is now.

“Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.” -Buddha

We don’t need to fix all of our differences, bridge all of our gaps, or resolve all of our conflicts in order to find collective healing as a community.

What we do need is to have more compassion and understanding for as many people as possible- even those with opposing views.

How Understanding And Compassion Benefit The Individual

Understanding where someone is coming from, how their worldview was shaped, and why they feel the way they feel won’t erase the issues we’re facing or the hurt we’ve been holding onto.

Understanding can, however, help soothe some of that friction and help us get to a place where we can have authentic conversations in good faith with people who may not believe the same things we do or see the world the same way.

When we understand the greater context of an individual’s beliefs and actions, we can let go of some personal hurt we harbor. It’s much easier to let go of that pain when we can say, “I understand why you feel that way.”

How Understanding and Compassion Benefit The Community

If we continue in the way we have been– split down the middle on so many issues, defensive and combative, lashing out in our collective pain, we lose the ability to impact each other meaningfully, and we fracture our community resources.

How can we lean on each other if we are so divided? How could we ever grow with no room for mistakes or outside perspectives?

Practicing more compassion and understanding for others keeps the door of communication open so that minds can be changed, relationships and communities can be repaired, and we can move toward a more peaceful existence.

Do We Have To “Forgive And Forget”?

None of this practice of compassion and understanding means that we have to “forgive and forget” how we have been wronged or the ways that others have hurt our communities and us.

We can understand and explain a group’s actions without excusing them, and we can be compassionate while continuing to protect ourselves from damaging behavior.

How Can We Practice More Understanding And Compassion Now?

For some of us, understanding will come first, and we will build compassion from that understanding. For others, it is our compassion that will drive us to understand the perspectives of others better.

Either way, we are all capable of bringing a little more compassion and understanding into the world right now. This is not something that we will do once and be “done,” but it is a practice that we will return to consistently.

Here are some good places to start:

  • Identify what is hurting
  • Identify what element of that hurt needs your forgiveness
  • Listen to others in good faith
  • Practice actively thinking of people with different views as fellow human
  • beings, rather than as their ideas or their actions
  • Prepare yourself to give something up– whether it’s an apology, an evident
  • change, or a re-do, you may have to let go of some of the outcomes you’d like
  • to see in order to move forward
  • Practice holding two truths at the same time – “This group’s actions hurt me”
  • can coexist with “I understand where their anger comes from”
  • Take your time

Finally, save some understanding and compassion for yourself while learning and growing during this particularly difficult time. If this practice feels particularly challenging, consider reaching out to a friend or speaking with a professional about your frustrations. You don’t have to do this on your own.

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