February is a month known for love. Stores of every kind sell chocolates, flowers, and balloons leading up to the romantic holiday of Valentine’s Day. In the same spirit, this month’s principle will focus on compassion:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”

I have never come across a single person that didn’t desire to be known and understood. Human beings are, for the most part, pack animals. We want community. We want to be accepted within that community and celebrated for who we are. That is only possible with compassion. And more often than not, we miss the mark.

Don’t get me wrong, I would venture to guess that the majority of people in this world are compassionate people. But do we show compassion to others when inconvenient? Or, better yet, do we always recognize when we are or are not showing compassion?

Let’s break down this principle to dive more into what I am getting at. “Rejoice with those who rejoice…” Have you ever been talking with someone who was really excited about the topic of discussion, but you had no interest in it whatsoever? Or maybe someone was excited to tell you something, but it caused a spurt of jealousy. Or, it just so happened that what the person was very excited about, you didn’t quite understand or get why it was a reason for so much excitement.

Now, you may not have noticed, and in the grand scheme of things it may not have been a big deal, but chances are, the response you gave zapped the joy right out of the person who, only moments before, was filled with so much excitement. Believe it or not, that was a lack of compassion. When we fail to be compassionate towards others, it can actually remove their own joy.

To help grasp this a little better, think about a situation where you were really excited but didn’t get the response from others you were hoping for. Maybe you had a new idea to share with your boss, but it was rejected without much thought. Or maybe you were trying to connect to other team members with a topic you really enjoyed but failed to get any kind of connection. Or, maybe something amazing happened to you at work one day, but your spouse didn’t seem to be amazed at all. How did you feel? Misunderstood? Ignored? Unappreciated?

We have all been there. And we have all done that to others. Not on purpose necessarily, just unaware. It is much easier to show compassion in the big things than it is the little things. When it comes to the little things, we rarely associate the word “compassion” as a thing to be applied in those situations. But, if we can learn to apply it by “Rejoicing with those who rejoice” we will be able to make stronger connections and build more trusting relationships.

On to the second piece of this principle. “Mourn with those who mourn”. That sounds simple enough. After all, when you see a friend or family member crying, you will naturally ask, “What’s wrong?”. But what about a co-worker you aren’t very close with? Or perhaps a stranger? And what about the subtle mourning of others that produces no visible tears or heartache on the outside?

While some may wear more emotions on their sleeves than others, most of us have internal struggles. We may share those internal struggles with others, but often only if they have already proven this second point to be true — they know how to mourn with us. Meaning, they relate to who we are, join in the suffering, and help lift us up through encouragement. When someone shows they understand us, it builds trust to share those internal struggles. That is what it means to mourn with those who mourn.

The lack of mourning with others happens all the time in the workplace. It is unfortunate. Regardless of where we are, we desire connection. Maybe a team member’s performance drops because they are having struggles at home. Telling someone to “separate personal from professional” or “push through it” not only doesn’t help, it has the opposite effect. It makes things worse. It shows that the work at hand is more important than the individual.

Work is important, for sure. And yes, there should be expectations for work performance. But as leaders, we have to show the team that the individual matters more than the work. That means asking questions. Because we try to separate professional from the personal, even if we see someone struggling, we can stay away because we don’t want to blur those lines. This is the wrong approach for leaders.

Ask questions, get into their world, share your own. Mourning with others can even include laughing at the small struggles we sometimes go through. It doesn’t have to be touchy feely. But both rejoicing and mourning with others breeds connection, builds understanding, and grows relationships. All of which, is compassion.