Concerns about “Concern for Everybody” #CompassionateSunday
Welcome to Compassionate Sunday. We’re working through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, one step per month.
If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step), what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step), self-compassion (The Third Step), empathy (The Fourth Step), mindfulness (The Fifth Step), action (The Sixth Step), how little we know (The Seventh Step), how to speak to one another (The Eighth Step), or concern for everybody (The Ninth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.
I confess that I’m going in circles on how to have concern for everybody. Deb Nance at Readerbuzz and Rachel B of Hibernator’s Library commented on last week’s post in ways that demonstrate my concerns.
Deb Nance noted that we get scorned for showing compassion for people that are deemed undeserving by our society. Society gives us mixed messages here, I think. In the abstract, “love thy neighbor” (Matthew 22:39), “love thy enemies” (Matthew 5:44), and “judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) all sound like exactly what we should be doing. But try putting that in practice by, say, expressing love toward immigrants and a desire to understand those who feel threatened by immigration. You’ll get scorn from immigrant supporters about accepting the possibility of any threat and scorn from xenophobes for embracing the arrival of new people and new cultures.
Rachel B pointed out that, especially in this election season, we need compassion for the xenophobes. Not only do I find that difficult in itself, but I feel limited support for the project from people who share my political and moral beliefs. And that includes Karen Armstrong. She spends two paragraphs on pages 148 and 149 asking us to “Listen critically to the voices in your own society that preach hatred or disdain of other national, religious and cultural traditions.” But she doesn’t tell me how to deal with my hatred or disdain for those voices or the people who listen to them uncritically.
All of this makes me feel alternately superior (I’m showing more concern for more people than you are) and whiny (everybody hates me because I’m trying to love someone that they hate). Both of those positions yank me right of compassion and back to self-centeredness. Sigh.
Do you have any suggestions for how to get off this merry-go-round?
I have to “re-mind” myself to focus on compassion, no matter which way the people around me seem to lean. It’s a form of mindfulness.
By the way, you forgot to label last week’s post “Compassionate Sunday.” I discovered it when I tried to go back and re-read last week’s start to the discussion of Chapter 9.
Thanks! Fixed the label.
Perhaps you’re thinking about it too much, and it’s driving you into a circular rut. I mean, if you just HAVE compassion instead of thinking about whether other people are having compassion or not, or instead of thinking about HOW to have compassion, you’ll probably get right out of the rut. I know, easier said than done when the whole point of your project is to think.
Again, easier said than done, but having compassion should be like walking. You shouldn’t have to think about how to do it. And if you think about it too much, you mess up. You can’t walk while at the same time thinking “now I flex these muscles just this way and the leg goes up and then I fall forward a little bit while flexing these muscles in the other leg,” etc.
Of course, I’m not telling you to stop thinking at all because clearly you need to learn about compassion before it is natural like walking. After all, you needed to learn to walk at one point in your life. Just think less about things that drive you into a rut. Hope that it becomes clear later in your project.