Our complexity is awe inspiring. We can be full of rage one moment and engage in selfless sacrifice the next. Let's camp out on the latter extreme for a moment.
What motivates you to act on behalf of another who has experienced misfortune?
Was it the example of Mom and Dad caring for those in the neighborhood? Mom set an extra spot at the dinner table because your friend's parents were going through a nasty divorce. Mom knew a bit of normalcy was needed to help your friend to get through the night. Dad fixed the air conditioning unit for the widow down the street and saved her the repair costs.
Have you been on the receiving end of compassion and looking to pay it forward. The teacher noticed your struggle and stayed late each night for the entire semester, to ensure you passed. The stranger that didn't hesitate to cover your grocery bill when you were a couple of bucks short.
Do your holy scriptures promise eternal gains for the compassionate effort? You recognize the immeasurable grace that has been received, and out of this overflow, you look to care for those you encounter. In light of this truth, the action is natural.
Are you counting on the boomerang of good karma to someday return? The idea of what comes around goes around holds out the promise that the compassionate investment today will yield the gifts at just the right moment. This cumulative effect will protect you from the falling piano or deliver the helpful tow truck driver that "just happened" to be driving by when you punctured a tire.
Not listed above?
What is your reason?
Compassion doesn't come free; it requires an investment of your resources. Just as we consult with our investment advisor before shifting our retirement nest egg, consider why you are investing your other resources. The good news is that investing in compassion will pay a substantial yield beyond dollars and cents.
Going Further: How many motives can you identify in your compassionate acts this year? How have your reasons changed since youth? What motivations did you pick up from others? What motive brings the most happiness? What compassionate actions deliver big results you can immediately see?