I posted an image on Facebook with the words, “Compassion leads us to understanding,” and was caught off guard by one of the responses I received. It said simply, “does it?” At first I was unsure what to say, or if I should respond at all. I honor every person’s right to speak their truth regardless of whether I agree or not. Perhaps I was misreading the tone of this response? I have come to learn that my perception of words on a page does not necessarily match that of the author’s and so I stared at those two little words until I felt a stirring from within. If one person is asking this question it means there are others who ask the same. Does compassion lead us to understanding? The answer rang with the clarity of truth… “Yes, if you truly wish to understand.” If you seek to understand another then you are willing to sit, listen deeply, and learn, so that common ground can be reached and the foundation for trust and respect can be laid. When I posted my response, this same individual replied that his inquiry was based in curiosity… he was wondering about other people and whether they believed that compassion leads to understanding. His reply inspired a sense of hope, in that so long as we are open to dialogue about compassion and understanding we can move toward positive change; however, his words also left me with a touch of sadness. Have we become so disconnected that we question our ability, and the ability of others, to hold compassion within our hearts?
This brief exchange echoed in my thoughts as the tragedy of the world’s current predicament settled in my bones. People’s reluctance, or down-right refusal, to see things from any perspective other than their own, is why we find ourselves living with fear and suspicion as our constant companions. Humanity is seemingly divided between those who wish to unite as one, and those who wish to stand apart and create greater dissonance among the people. On one hand there emerges a tribe of people who grow tired of watching death and destruction caused by differing opinions and a lack of respect for an individual’s right to sovereignty, their right to hold their own beliefs, and the right to live life in their own way. This tribe wishes to stop history from repeating itself. They desire positive change, healing and justice for all, and a coming-together to solve the world’s problems. On the other hand exists a palpable lack of compassion on the part of some individuals, corporations, and even nations of the world. They hold the belief that their way is the only way and all others who are “different” should be separated or even discarded. These are the people and nations which hold grudges, refuse forgiveness, and remain stuck in a cycle of vengeance, greed, and destruction. They do so in the name of being “right” or instilling fear among the masses in order to feel omnipotent
While there is much ugliness, there is also beauty to be found within this conundrum and it exists within the simplicity of its resolution… to have, and demonstrate, compassion for other living, breathing Souls… to treat one another the way we wish to be treated, to remedy the hate and pain caused by the illusion of separateness by truly seeing one another beyond our skin, our religion, our orientation, our race… The answer appears so simple, as to almost insult our intelligence… Be open to giving and receiving compassion in order to arrive at a better understanding of one another and, by proxy, humanity as a whole. What more elegant answer could there be? True oneness and peace can be found in the recognition that every living being in existence is a reflection of our own self. We each hold within our being a piece of one another. Every time we raise hands to our brothers and sisters we raise hands to ourselves. For every wound we inflict on another we feel the pain deep within. This wound of disconnection runs deep through every heart, every Soul, and every psyche on the planet. Mother Earth feels the sting as well, as the never-ending flagellation of the world’s people creates festering poisons which taint the minds of many. Some so blinded by a desire to hold power over all, even creation, that greed slowly eats away at us from the inside out and leads us to thoughtless actions which defile our home planet.
Are we too far gone to stop this slow death? Can we not pause, for even a moment, and see that the only direction this road leads is to certain destruction?
It was within those two simple words, “does it?” that the tragedy of our current state of affairs made itself known. There remain many who question whether it is worth the “risk” to show compassion for others. They fear they will be seen as weak and then preyed upon. They cannot see that there is strength to be found in kindness, and power in vulnerability. Rather than make an attempt to see circumstances through the eyes of others they instead choose to remain locked into a narrow focus, seeing only what they allow themselves to perceive or what they have been taught was truth. Never seeking to know for themselves… never asking if what they know as ‘truth’ could be wrong… never stepping outside their comfort zone of stereotypes and shallow views… some won’t even allow themselves to attempt compassion as a cure, deeming it a failure before they even try. Many proclaim that to drop our guard and welcome those who differ from us would be an act of suicide, whether real or symbolic in nature. In their eyes, to stand and say “enough” and extend a hand in peace is seen as weakness and a sign of naivety.
The tragedy is that people who hold these beliefs will never know if things could be different because they are not willing to make an honest attempt. They won’t take the steps needed toward real and lasting change because they are waiting for ‘proof’ that it’s worth the risk. They fail to see that, if everyone continues waiting for ‘proof’ it will never come. Someone must take the first step. We cannot continue extending the olive branch with one hand while aiming a gun with the other and expect to form a bond of trust. Fear keeps people from seeing that it takes a great deal of strength, and faith in the overall goodness of humankind, to stand unarmed in the midst of chaos and proclaim yourself a beacon of love and healing.
I, for one, can see no other way out of this. I refuse to live in fear of my brothers and sisters simply because they do not look as I do or believe what I believe. Our differences are what make this world, this life, and the experience of being human, so utterly and breathtakingly beautiful. I choose to embrace compassion as my guide, as I seek a deeper understanding of the world I live in and the people who share this home we call earth. I fully realize the deep and painful history that goes hand-in-hand with many of the world’s current conflicts, pain that cannot be healed by further bloodshed. Memories of great wounding cannot be drowned in oceans of blood and tears, the attempt only deepens the wound and keeps it from healing. History does not have to continue repeating itself. If we want change then we must come together and commit to it because if we continue to do what we have always done then we will continue to get what we have always got. We have the power to stop this carousel of insanity from turning.
I know within the core of my being that there is much more to us than hatred, violence, and mayhem. Within each of us exists a depth of beauty, love, and kindness which can move mountains, especially when we stand united. Over time we have become afraid. Like cornered animals we claw and bite at anyone who approaches too closely, no matter their intent. We need to find a way to release our fear and come together again. Then, and only then, will real healing take place. If I can find forgiveness in my heart for those who have wounded me, and if each person could do the same… If each of us can admit that the very act of being human means that we make mistakes… we can change and grow from all of this. Together we can stop the chaos which holds us hostage and we can begin again, on equal footing, as people helping people.
And so, do I believe that compassion can lead us to understanding? Yes, with every fiber of my being I believe it to be true, and I hope and pray that enough of you stand with me that we may see a day of true peace and oneness.
So let it be done!