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  • Joan van den Brink

Courage, Compassion and Wisdom in the face of a Pandemic

Courage, compassion and wisdom are three companions that I think define humanity. They are virtues on their own, however, their power is significantly greater when the three act together. It often takes courage to show compassion to others and ourselves because we are witnessing and being alongside another who is suffering. Their suffering could touch some hurt within us or we are compelled to take action on their behalf and stand out from the crowd to do so. We also need wisdom to know how to show that compassion in a way that is healing. If we are more purposeful about employing these qualities, we are brave enough to start conversations that matter with ourselves and others about sensitive, difficult and emotive topics. We are able to speak from our hearts in a way that allows us and others to feel seen, heard and understood. From this place we can find creative solutions to life’s problems.

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect time to be more intentional about operating out of courage, compassion and wisdom. I have had the privilege of hosting an online community since March 2020 of individuals who believe in the power of these three companions. They have welcomed the opportunity to explore how these qualities can help us deal with the total disruption to our lives caused by the pandemic.

I wanted to create a safe place for individuals to authentically be themselves and share what was going on for them. To have a conversation that we could not have elsewhere. To not feel that we needed to be brave and strong and cover up our true feelings.

The Community is still going strong 8 months later as many of us have entered new restrictions to combat the ‘second wave’ of the pandemic. In talking with some of the participants I see that the value and power of the Community lies in the:

1. genuine support and positive regard the members have for each other;

2. opportunity to explore our emotions, worries and fears without feeling judged;

3. feeling seen and heard and accepted as we are; we do not try to fix each other;

4. learning that comes from hearing diverse viewpoints about the topics we discuss;

5. common humanity and shared experiences that we have. ;

6. healing that comes from gaining new insights about what we are experiencing.

The Community has provided us with a place to explore the conditions[1] that enable us to express courage, compassion and wisdom – self-compassion, values, personal boundaries, self-care and supportive others – and learn from each other how to strengthen these for ourselves; in particular self-compassion. We have learnt a lot about how to apply them to coping with the ‘new normal’. We learnt to be kind and patient with ourselves when we are feeling anxious or not our best selves. And we have built our resilience.

I encourage you to find your own community or supportive network so that you too can tap into your courage, compassion and wisdom!

[1] Research by the author to be published in a book about the three companions, Courage, Compassion and Wisdom

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