Saturday, November 19, 2011

'Tis the Season for Compassion

During this season of Thanksgiving and subsequent holidays, both religious and non-religious,  a lot of people reflect on their good fortune, and reach out to others with compassion.  It's a time when we donate food to food banks, purchase toys for needy children and perhaps, at the very least, drop a few coins in the bell ringer's pail as we bustle into the store to do our own holiday shopping.

I guess we could feel pretty good about ourselves for what we view as selfless acts of giving without any strings attached.  We feel the spirit of the season, so we give without a lot of thought to who is on the receiving end of our donations, beyond the notion that they are "less fortunate than we".  To be sure, it's nice that we feel like giving, and that we do so so freely at this time of year.  But what about the other 11 months of the year?  Are not the same people in need of compassion during those months as well?

This is how I see it:  We want to quantify our compassion when we're not riding on the high of the spirit of the season.  We begin to think about just who's on the other end of our donation or act of compassion.  We're not so compassionate to those whose lifestyles we disagree with, and we certainly have no compassion for someone whom we view as having made their own troubles, by addiction, willful joblessness, bad money management or whatever else we ourselves believe would never happen to us.  Our compassion only extend to those we believe are deserving of our compassion.  I wonder--- who develops the standards by which we measure who is deserving?  Why, we ourselves do, of course.  We bring our own prejudices, judgments and  opinions along with us wherever we go, and this includes to whom we extend compassion.

Pardon me, but-- what a crock of sh*t.

There are no ifs, ands or buts associated with compassion. Compassion stands alone. The dictionary defines compassion as 'a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.' Antonyms are: cruelty, harshness, hatred, indifference, meanness, mercilessness and tyranny.

I suppose it is okay not to be compassionate. or to choose to be compassionate only once a year, but it is not possible to be compassionate only to those who live up to our standards, because, by definition, there are no expectations and exceptions to compassion.  So, if we have caveats to our compassion, we should just own up to the fact that we aren't really compassionate after all.

Something I have observed is that people are either compassionate or they aren't. There really is a huge divide between the compassionate and the indifferent (this category includes those who classify themselves as compassionate IF...). Neither party really understands the point of view of the other side.

I guess you can probably guess which side of the divide I am on. I really don't understand lack of compassion for human suffering, and I don't care what conditions brought someone to the predicament they find themselves in.  I only ponder the statement-- There, but for the grace of my God, go I.  A couple of wrong decisions could have brought me to the same unfortunate place, and I believe it's my job to be compassionate toward people, simply because they're people.  And this compassion, and desire to serve and give should extend beyond a six week period of time between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ~Luke 6:32-35