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Compassion: Healing a Disconnected World

By: Juhyun Oh

Set in the backdrop of charged racial tension and segregation in Alabama during the 1930s, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee uses Atticus Finch as a literary vehicle to propose the theme of compassion as a remedy to racism. Finch highlights this when he passes his moral compass to his daughter Scout, hoping she applies compassion when connecting with people:  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view–until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Finch’s advice emphasizes the need to relate to others by first viewing the world in their perspectives. Through this literary masterpiece and the character of Finch, Lee addresses the urgent necessity to apply compassion to bridge the hurtful differences in society, especially those that arise from discrimination and ignorance, because compassion, the empathy to understand others, unites humanity. In fact, the world needs compassion more than ever to not only foster genuine human connections and spread kindness but also remove the psychological causes that impede genuine human connections.

Compassion is the ultimate emotion that resolves social connectedness among humans since it restores positive feelings among individuals. According to a science director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, individuals with lack of social connection can experience “declines in physical and psychological health”, show “antisocial behavior”, and suffer in isolation (Seppala 2013). In other words, a lack of social connection can smear detrimental effects, which can be resolved by compassion as it brings feelings of connectedness to people. Moreover, in a 2008 study conducted to discover cultivation of compassion, with just 7 minutes of variety of compassion and meditation practices, people were able to experience an increase in closeness and connectedness (Seppala 2013). To sum up, compassion is a powerful “positive” emotion that can withdraw the damaging impacts of lack of social connection and improve individuals’ mind and mental health.

Receiving compassion from others not only benefits the world by inducing positive impacts on the receivers, but also grants stable mental health for the individuals that express compassion. This form of compassion, known as self-compassion, can be used by people to feel compassion and give support to themselves. According to an associate professor from University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Educational Psychology, expressing self-compassion can lead to increase in “feelings of happiness, optimism, curiosity, and connectedness” and decrease in “anxiety, depression, rumination, and fear of failure”, which all contribute to increase in self-contentment (Neff 2009). In other words, the presence of self-compassion, which is when individuals feel compassionate for themselves, can ultimately improve people’s mental health, social connections and alleviate negativity. With happier individuals in the world, the society as a whole can reach contentment, which is why compassion is a necessary emotion in our world.

It should also be noted that kindness and compassion are contagious emotions that are worth to spread. In the current fast-paced world, initiating kindness and being compassionate individuals for the sake of other people would be the ideal method to achieving a joyful society and maximizing morals. According to a behavioral health quality manager, expressing kindness can release serotonin and oxytocin in the human body which can influence the interactions and behaviors of other people (Millinor 2021). This further proves that compassion is a contagious emotion that alters people’s attitudes and behaviors positively. This chain reaction of kindness can change an individual’s day, mood and attitude, turning a larger society into a group of cheerful individuals.

In today’s world, a lot of people lack compassion and kindness to reform society into a large community of happy individuals. The lack of compassion has become more prevalent in the world, leading to significant declines in the number of happy individuals being recorded. As a matter of fact, multiple studies have been conducted to track down levels of happiness around the world, and one global research conducted by Ipsos claimed that there have been declines in happiness levels among adults over the years (Jackson, 2019). This crisis, which will continue to decrease happiness levels among individuals in society and even hinder social connections in the public, can be resolved by compassion. To elaborate, compassion promotes human connection and enhances one’s mental and physical health, which is why compassion is necessary for counteraction and necessary for today’s world.

-Work Cited-

Jackson, Chris. “Happiness is receding across the world”. Ipsos, 2019. 29 November 2023

Millinor, Katelyn. “Is Kindness Contagious?”.  NOAH, 2021.,and%20releases%20serotonin%20and%20oxytocin 28 November 2023

Neff, Kristin. “The Role of Self-Compassion in Development: A Healthier Way to Relate to Oneself”. NLM, 2009.,rumination%20and%20fear%20of%20failure 28 November 2023

Seppala, Emma. “Compassionate Mind, Healthy Body”. Mind & Body, 2013. 28 November 2023

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