The 7 Ingredients of Caring

Humans are social creatures. We spend our lives interacting with others, giving and receiving. We were not designed to be alone, yet too often, when presented with the opportunity to reach out to another, we find ourselves holding back because we are unsure how to move forward. Whether we are caring for family or friends or complete strangers, we can act with assurance by breaking the concept of caring down into its essential parts.

• COMPASSION. The first step is having compassion for someone other than yourself. Too often, compassion is confused with pity, but they have completely different starting points. Pity is a fear-based response when we look down on someone else (as if into a pit) and treat that person as less than ourselves. We are so focused on the differences between us and them that we separate ourselves from them, holding them at arm’s length. Compassion, on the other hand, stems from the realization that we are all members of the same humanity and, therefore, equally merit love and concern. We are able to reach out to others (coming alongside them), look them in the eyes, and open ourselves to the opportunity to share life with another in all its joy or sorrow.

• ACCEPTANCE. We can only care for others if we accept them for the whole of who they are. We can’t pick and choose the parts we’ll help and disregard the rest. Acceptance doesn’t mean we compromise our beliefs. It gives us the responsibility to see without judging, to give without expecting repayment. When we can show every person we encounter the same acceptance, it is a reflection of the unconditional love we receive from God, who celebrates every one of us even when we’re not perfect.

• RESPECT. To treat another person with respect is to preserve dignity and nobility even when those things seem to be impossible. Every person is precious and unique, whether they are male or female, rich or poor, young or old. We have so much to learn from the people who share our lives, and yet we often crowd them out because we are too busy looking for someone other than the person sitting next to us. When we stop to listen, to ask someone about themselves, we have the chance to glimpse God’s glory reflected in a singular and beautiful way that would be unavailable to us if we simply walked by.

• INSPIRATION. Because we are all connected, we are always drawing inspiration from some people and giving it to others. It is not something we consciously set out to do, and it is approached with humility. We often have no idea we are serving as someone’s source of strength or encouragement, and just as often, we don’t take the time to let others know that they are sources of these things for us. Inspiration can be a catalyst for change and self-improvement, since we are never a finished product. Just as importantly, inspiration by its very nature reminds us that, though we are the center of our own perceptions, we are by no means the center of everything.

• NEED. Often, it seems easier to give than to receive care. But if we never allow ourselves to be the recipient of others’ caring, we shortchange everyone involved. People use gestures of caring to express things that are difficult to put into words, such as how much they treasure our friendship, how we provide them with a sense of purpose greater than simple existence, or thankfulness for our own caring toward them in the past. We are not invincible, and being on the receiving end of care reminds us to be humble. If we are always giving and never receiving, we also shut out opportunities to witness miracles.

• GRATITUDE. Being grateful for whatever we have in each moment, whether we are giving or receiving care, is one of the most liberating aspects of caring. When we are the provider, we should be thankful for the chance we are being given to show God’s love in a concrete way to someone who might not be aware of it. As a recipient, we can rejoice in the knowledge that we are not alone. Gratitude springs from joy and is rooted in our conscious decision to live in each moment completely, without holding onto the past or worrying about the future.

When we can reach out with love and compassion, accepting each person exactly as they are; when we respect each other to maintain dignity and nobility and to listen to what we are saying, even if no words are spoken; when we serve as the inspiration for one another to grow beyond what we ourselves believed was possible; when we acknowledge our need both to give and to receive; and when we live filled with gratitude for every moment we are given breath, then we can begin caring for ourselves and, by extension, caring for one another.

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4 Comments on “The 7 Ingredients of Caring”


  1. Halfnotes:

    Excellent article. So good in fact, Mark/Healingsourcesf over at MINDFUL LIVING / COMMUNITY SOUL SF used this without even attributing it to you, let along posting a hyperlink.

    http://mindful-living-sf.blogspot.com/2008/11/what-is-living-mindfully.html

    I would have sent you an email, but you don’t have an email listed anywhere, or a contact form page (which isn’t hard to do there at WP.com).

    Looks like copyright infringement to me, unless you know more about this than these fair folks have let on.

    Theft annoys me, especially by “spiritual” people, let alone the “scraper” blogs out there.

    Daniel


  2. […] at Life Between the Notes in a very good article cites gratitude as one of “The 7 Ingredients of Caring.” (You know you have a good article when you find it lifted verbatim and posted without attribution […]


  3. […] at Life Between the Notes in a very good article cites gratitude as one of “The 7 Ingredients of Caring.” (You know you have a good article when you find it lifted verbatim and posted without attribution […]

  4. halfnotes Says:

    Hi, all,

    Thanks for alerting me. I certainly don’t mind if people use stuff–just say where it came from! And, yes, it’s a little more annoying when “spiritual” people do this.

    As for a contact form, I’ll try to fix this, but I’m not all that confident in my own capabilities. At least not computer-wise!


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