the way of compassion

Posted on June 13, 2013

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In every culture and religion on earth, compassion is at the core of human society. Even in a culture that is established and maintained by war, compassion is seen in how a mother nurtures a child or how a father provides. Even in a religion that is established and maintained by judgment and prideful comparison, compassion is core to its greatest commandments and its most spiritual leaders. Even among the animals, compassion is seen. So what is this thing that is so central to life and living?

An experiment was carried out in a prestigious religious university. Two classes of theology students were preparing a sermon on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. There also was a class of sociology students that decided that theology students just might make interesting sociology specimens. An experiment was launched. Both theology classes were told that they would be graded on their sermon they had to present on the other side of the campus. One class was told that time was limited and being late would affect their grade. The others were given ample time to get the the other side and give their sermon. Here’s the kink. As they headed out the door they encountered a man, lying on the sidewalk, that appeared to be in serious distress and obviously needed help. Of those students heading out to preach their sermon with no time pressure involved, 63% stopped to help the man in distress. Of those that were given time constraints that could affect their grade, only 10% stopped to help. These are our future preachers.

The first step in the progression toward compassion is this: SLOW DOWN. If we are wrapped up, rushing to accomplish our own agenda, we will miss our neighbor that is in need of compassion. We must SLOW DOWN our feet and our minds.So SLOW DOWN AND SEE. We must open our eyes.

The second step in the progression toward compassion is this: BE QUIET. Once we have silenced the competing voices of our agendas, our worries, our regrets, our opinions; we can hear the voice of another. We must slow down our minds and our mouths.So STOP, BE QUIET, AND LISTEN. We must open our ears.

The third step in the progression toward compassion is this: STAY PUT. We must be able to empathize by understanding the situation through the eyes of the other person.So STAY PUT AND UNDERSTAND. We must open our hearts.

The fourth step in the progression toward compassion is this: SUFFER WITH. The meaning of the word compassion literally means to suffer with. This is the hard part that many people never reach. You take the pain and suffering of another person and you put it IN your wide open heart and hold it there until you’ve experienced it as fully as you are able. But it is not that YOU’VE experienced it deeply so much as you’ve experienced it WITH the other person. Compassion is the core of unity, community, and togetherness.

So WE PUT IT IN OUR HEARTS AND SIT WITH OTHERS WHILE SUFFERING WITH THEM.

“It is this latter ingredient in compassion that is challenging for most of us. How I appreciated her willingness not to stay away from my pain, not to ‘give me space’ to grieve when what I needed was someone to share my pain and my grief.” (David Kundtz, Awakened Mind)
COM – PASSION
COM means “with”.
PASSION: late 12c., “sufferings of Christ on the Cross,” from O.Fr. passion, from L.L. passionem (nom. passio) “suffering, enduring,” from stem of L. pati “to suffer, endure,” from PIE base *pei- “to hurt” (cf. Gk. pema “suffering, misery, woe”). Sense extended to sufferings of martyrs, and suffering generally, by early 13c.; meaning “strong emotion, desire” is attested from late 14c., from L.L. use of passio to render Gk. pathos. Replaced O.E. þolung (used in glosses to render L. passio), lit. “suffering,” from þolian (v.) “to endure.”

What compassion does NOT mean:
~ giving them space to grieve.~ giving them an “answer”.~ doing acts of kindness to make them “feel better”.
No.

SLOW DOWN. DO NOTHING. OPEN YOUR EYES.
BE QUIET. SAY NOTHING. OPEN YOUR EARS.
STAY PUT. LISTEN DEEPLY FOR UNDERSTANDING. OPEN YOUR MIND.
SUFFER WITH. JOIN WITH THEM IN THEIR PAIN. OPEN YOUR HEART.
PUT IT IN YOUR HEART AND LET YOURSELF FEEL IT DEEPLY. OPEN YOUR WILL.
THEN, AND ONLY THEN, WILL YOUR ACTION BE TRUE AND AUTHENTIC COMPASSION . . . WITH OPEN HANDS

We must stop serving ourselves with our quaint sayings, scripture verses, and answers so that we feel better that we have “done something” . . . arrogantly thinking that we have MADE them feel better. We feel such a desperate compulsion to DO that we just DO to feel better. But compassion is first about BEING. BEING WITH the other person. Then, and only then, will action be real and natural.

“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness.”

“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all . . . living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”(Thomas Merton)

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