I moved by myself from Costa Rica to America when I was sixteen years old. I remember being impacted by something I saw the first time I walked into my high school cafeteria. Everyone was seated at different tables clearly divided by race, religion, and “levels of coolness”. I was confused. The first question I asked myself was, am I supposed to sit at the table with all the kids who look like me? Or can I sit anywhere else?
Growing up in a small country with a population of 5 million people, I never had to ask myself that question. Everyone would hang out with everyone else regardless of their color or socioeconomic background.
That morning in that high school cafeteria I decided to sit at a table with kids who looked different from me.
Guess what happened?!
I ended up learning a lot from them, enriching my cultural awareness, and building great friendships that I treasure to this date.
They were regular people. Just like me. With virtues, weaknesses, strengths, and challenges. Just like me.
What a surprising finding, huh?
It’s natural for people to lean towards people who look and act like them. I actually find it beautiful to see that diversity of cultures and communities everywhere I go.
It’s okay for us to identify and label ourselves as being a part of X/Y communities or groups. We are human and we need that sense of belonging to like-minded people.
What worries me is when we let those labels divide us from others. It worries me when we build imaginary walls between us and the people who are different from us. Keeping us away from building amazing relationships with amazing-unique people.
I spend the majority of my days helping teams in organizations communicate and collaborate effectively. There is a key word that keeps showing up during my workshops: compassion.
I define compassion as an act of turning our awareness of the pains and struggles that people have, into actions to help them relief, alleviate, or eliminate those pains.
The distance from awareness to action takes some courage. I have noticed a common denominator that keeps people from taking that step of courage towards compassion for one another.
That common denominator is called, fear.
- We may have fear of opening our hearts to others.
- We may have fear of being vulnerable.
- We may have fear of letting go of our egos.
- We may have fear of _________________.
I strive to encourage people to become fearless and get themselves outside of their comfort zone to talk to people who are different from them. In that process of exploration and discomfort, we can find things we can relate to one another.
We will also find different struggles that we are facing with our lives.
That’s the point when we can turn our fears into compassion to help each other thrive and get through those struggles, together.
That’s what I call: fearless compassion.
It takes some guts to get to that point of vulnerability to open our hearts and humanize our conversations and interactions. But I guarantee you it feels amazing and humbling when you get there.
Let’s not make the same mistake that I saw in that high school cafeteria many years ago. Everyone in the same room divided in different groups with little understanding of who was in the room.
We need to understand that we need each other. Especially those who are different from us. They challenge us, teach us, and make us better.
Sometimes the problems we may face at work or with our relationships may be because of the lack of awareness that we have about ourselves and the people that we interact with.
Sometimes stepping outside of our comfort zone can give us a clearer view of the world where we live, who we are, and where we belong.
I would like to encourage you to make fearless compassion a daily habit.
Let me know when you do it. I would love to hear your story.