By Melodie Veldhuizen
Many people struggle, all in a different way. Not everyone is willing to acknowledge this and hide their pain behind a mask of ‘Everything’s fine’. Caring is trying to hear and see wat is hidden behind those words, or behind a teary smile or bent shoulders. It is much more than empathy or sympathy, more than a thought or emotion – it entails real action and solutions to try and alleviate the suffering of others and make them feel better. There are various ways in which to do this, depending on the person or the situation.
Begin with yourself
We read in the Bible: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”. That is why caring for others begins with yourself. You cannot care about others if you don’t love yourself. Love will automatically flow out to everyone around you.
Reach out to the outsiders: Make space for a newcomer in your established circle by moving up or pulling up a chair and making the person feel welcome, draw the introvert into the conversation, or make sure everyone has been provided with refreshments.
Share important information, for example when loadshedding is in the offing, with people not always abreast with events.
Motivate, encourage and give hope. For someone who has lost heart, positive and inspiring words such as ‘Well done’ or ‘You can do it’ are food for the soul. Emphasise the person’s strong points and remind him of what he has already achieved. Don’t let him feel and treat him like a useless person.
Dreams and aims are what inspire us to continue with our lives. Support your loved ones and friends in this and, where possible, help them to realise them.
Make time for others. Life is too short to be busy all the time. It means the world to someone if you are willing to give of your precious time for a phone conversation or a visit. You will be able to make time to catch up on your work that has lagged behind. However, time with loved ones is not a given. Someday it might be just one day too late.
Please and thank you are so often neglected. These are basic good manners but also show that you appreciate others’ caring about you.
Listen attentively to what others are telling you, without interrupting. Also be aware of what is being said with gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. Make eye contact and turn to the person. Confirm that you hear what he is saying by for example a nod or a facial expression. Afterwards you can summarise what you heard or ask questions.
A hug, a soft touch or squeezing a hand perform wonders, especially to calm someone who is upset. It shows that you really care. However, be careful not to enter someone’s personal space without his consent.
Say and show how you feel, so that the other person realises that you are also struggling and/or that you aren’t perfect either. This will put the other person at ease when realising that you also have emotions. Opening up your own heart helps the other person to not feel inferior and to be more candid.
Friendliness and a genuine smile are infectious and spread easily. The difference between generosity and friendliness is that with the former you give things, but with friendliness you make someone happy. You show that you are noticing someone’s joy but also his pain.
Respect others’ privacy, decisions and individuality. Sometimes the person does not want to talk about her pain, yet feels better after a stroll in nature or visiting over coffee with someone who really cares. Allow her to decide herself how she is going to solve her problem, even if you don’t agree. If she is prepared to bare her soul to you, don’t be a tattle-tale (not even by using the words ‘Pray with me for …’).
Intervene or act on behalf of someone. Sometimes someone is in a situation where he cannot speak for himself. Show compassion by doing it on his behalf and in so doing protecting him against others who wish to hurt or disadvantage him. To act effectively as go-between, it is essential that you listen carefully to what the person says first. Guard against acting on behalf of someone against his will and causing further animosity.
Count your words. Sometimes words can cause more harm than good. In a situation where you want to show you care, your silent presence often means more than a flood of senseless chatter.
Selflessness is a gift and especially essential in a daily caring relationship with people. You often have to set aside your own interests and needs if you genuinely care about the interests of others.
Humility and acknowledgement or your flaws are essential if you care with a sincere heart and attitude and wish to show compassion towards others. No-one is perfect.
Unconditional and non-judgemental love and acceptance. Don’t judge others for who they are, what they did and for wrong decisions that caused them to end up in a distressful situation. Look for the good in every person and be understanding. And don’t try to change the other person.
Hatred and being unforgiving build walls between people and evoke feelings of revenge. To be able to show caring and compassion, even towards those who harmed and hurt you, you must first forgive. Especially, but not excluding, when they show remorse and ask for forgiveness.
Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes. Often you can only care sincerely when you try and imagine yourself in someone else’s situation. How would I feel if a loved one died? Or if my children lived overseas and I could never see them? Of if I were in financial straits and had to wonder how I was going to take care of my family every month?
Be glad with others. Caring is not limited to people who struggle. Caring and compassionate people are also happy when it’s going well with others. Be glad with others about their achievements, or when their grandchildren visit them while you are sick with longing for your own.
Also love others’ loved ones. Sometimes you don’t like a friend’s child or spouse, because you know they treat her badly, or merely because of personality differences. If you care for your friend, you also have to love her loved ones or at least not bad-mouth them.
Show appreciation towards others who show they care about you. When someone enquires as to your wellbeing, say ‘Thank you for asking’ and then enquire about that person’s wellbeing.
Be patient and tolerant, even when you are in a hurry, or feel disappointed or irritated. Take a deep breath and give yourself enough time to calm down so that once again you can show that you care.
Be the reason why someone feels welcome, is appreciated and noticed, supported and loved.
It’s really so easy.
Independence University. https://www.independence.edu/blog/ways-of-showing-compassion
Inspiring Tips. https://inspiringtips.com/asia/ways-to-show-compassion-to-others/
Mind Fuel Daily. https://www.mindfueldaily.com/livewell/8-ways-to-show-compassion-in-everyday-life/
Montessori Rocks. https://montessorirocks.org/10-ways-to-show-compassion/