Compassion is defined as a feeling of deep sympathy for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. We should all strive to become more compassionate individuals, and raise our characters to a higher level.
“I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never breathed to another soul” she began tearfully.
What followed was a tragic story that instantly changed the way I looked at her.
I was overcome by feelings of compassion that hadn’t existed before. “Why couldn’t she have told me this sooner?!” I wondered in frustration.
In retrospect, the question I should have been wrestling with is “why did I need to know the details before I exercised a meaningful level of compassion?”
What I came to realize is that we all have a story. Every single one of us has a story! The details are painful, private. Some things shouldn’t ever have to be shared with strangers or loved ones! It shouldn’t take a peek behind the curtain to open our eyes. The secrets of others should not be a price paid for our understanding!
The Dalai Lama once said that compassion is the radicalism of our time. Sadly, I’m forced to agree with that on some level.
Too often, I default to judging people according to how they treat me. That probably sounds fair but I’m starting to think that it might not be. For me, this exposes a bit of a philosophical disconnect.
On one hand, I believe people to be inherently good. Assuming that’s the case, nobody would treat me poorly without having reason to. Maybe it’s mental illness. Maybe it’s past trauma. Maybe it’s self-defence, based on a misunderstanding. Maybe a lot of things…
The problem is that part of me believes the best about people but another part assumes the worst.
If I’m going to be honest with you, I have to say that everything I’ve ever said or done has felt justified in the moment, at least. I always have my reasons. Everyone has their reasons.
I can justify believing the best of others. I can no longer justify assuming the worst.