Compassion

“Love and compassion are necessities, not  luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
– Dalai Lama

Typically, it seems to me that most people who choose to write on success and accomplishment give little conversation to compassion. To be fair, compassion is not part of that cold, hardened logic that some would harness to drive their career to the top. Compassion, in fact, can actually hinder your chances at times. Perhaps your latest idea is a guaranteed success, but it would mean the failure of someone you respect? Just as likely – and just as relevant in our modern era of environmental awareness – maybe your idea has the potential to revolutionize living but comes at a cost to the natural world?

Every time we act in any way, we make a choice. Many of the choices we make affect others in some manner or another. Choosing to rush through an intersection just before the light turns red may not cause an accident. In fact, you may be able to make it through without even hindering the other line of traffic. Nevertheless, your action can make an impression on another driver which leaves them upset or frustrated at your behavior. Everyone will arrive at work or home as they would have without your intrusion, yet you’ve had an affect on someone else’s life.

Of course, this is a small example, and the potential is there for us to affect others in far greater ways – and more directly.

I think the concept is clear enough at this point, so I’ll cease with examples. Compassion is about more than just affecting others. Compassion is a strong feeling of supportive emotion towards another that is suffering. As much as we avoid re-living it, we’ve all suffered at some time or another. Perhaps someone reading this is suffering right now. When we choose to recognize suffering in another and act in a loving manner for their better, we demonstrate compassion.

What, then, is the impact of all this on someone attempting to pursue their dreams? I suppose my point is that we must remember that no matter how hard we push ourselves and how high our ambitions, the world is made up of more than just you or me. Please don’t forget about the people around you as you find your path to accomplishment. Always ensure you can still afford the time to care about someone in need. No matter how noble your goals, don’t let your passionate drive overtake your compassion for others.

If you’ll afford me an anecdote:

I used to know a man who worked in the middle of a jail. He monitored all of the secured doors throughout the facility and sat nearly invisible behind one-way glass facing every cell in the (admittedly small) compound. As a result of his position, he was privy to the details of the crimes and encounters which brought each prisoner to stay. While he tried to remain objective, he would often feel angry towards a new inmate as he heard the tale of abuse or tyranny that justified the arrest.

Every story was different, of course, but there was always a victim. It was very painful for him to see pictures of people who had endured such suffering at the hands of someone else – the cuts, bruises, or worse that ran red with the ugly hatred of one human towards another. But there was something more, still…

As the inmates stayed their sentences and the investigations continued, he would come to learn more about the them. He would watch as they went about their days and interacted with other inmates. Despite the severity of their circumstances, he would see them laugh and play games.

The hardest thing, however, was when he would come to learn their background – often full of abuse and hatred as well. When this happened, he tells me he would feel compassion. Nothing could undue the wrong or the harm that had been done, but here was a fellow human who had suffered greatly as well. He no longer felt right to judge.

Thank you for your time.

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