Compassion When It Might Be Easier To Hate

Thich Nhat Hanh’s best known book is probably Being Peace. It’s profound.

Here’s what struck me most recently. He’s talking about how everyone suffers – blacks and whites, Palestinians and Israelis, Indians and Pakistanis, etc. etc. etc. and says this:

There must be people who can get in touch with both sides, understanding the suffering of each and telling each side about the other.

That sent shivers through me the first time I heard it and, fortunately, does every time I read it. My mind tends to take off and wonder how I might understand the suffering of  those I disagree with, and how I might tell those who agree with me about the other.

For example:

I almost always disagree with Glenn Beck.  (I once heard him express real compassion for an individual.) When I think deeply about what he says and how he says it I believe his suffering is probably fear. When he and his small gang of men begin talking about conspiracies or liberals I’m reminded of junior high school boys smoking behind the fence, afraid they will get caught out. When I hear that fear I can’t help but feel some compassion.

Sarah Palen confuses me because I associate women with compassion and understanding which she seems, to me, to be lacking. Yet I also hear fear in her – in this case fear that she will not be accepted. That’s a fear I know and when I look deeply within myself I remember a time when I tried to be tough in hopes people would like, or at least respect me. How can I not feel compassion for someone who shares that kind of feeling?

For me this sort of exercise hurts. It requires a stretching of my imagination and initially I don’t like it at all. I’d rather be right and know that ‘they’ are wrong.

In truth I haven’t been able to let go of the idea that Beck and Palen are wrong.

In spite of that, when I reach to understand, when I dig to find compassion, when I can stick with it long enough to experience some real sympathy for a person I know is wrong, some of the energy comes off my judgment. Some energy is freed up somehow. The rightness or wrongness of our two positions doesn’t seem to matter quite as much.

Does this make any sense to you?

Love and blessings,

Anne Wayman: When Grandmother Speaks

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Esther Bradley-DeTally February 21, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Hi anne, I think we homo sapiens are hardwired for compassions and noble qualities. I’ll tell you who I feel this way: I became a Baha’i, a follower of Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Faith 45 years ago. Our task in this age of humanity’s ever-advancing civilization is like everyone of the previous era’s: to know and love God and to carry forth an ever advancing civilization. The task of the Day is to recognize our oneness, very much like the oneness or unity in diversity of our bodies. If we recognized that we are one, and interrelated on a far more abstract level, I suggest we might be kinder to one another. This thought is a thimblefull of a huge concept. LOve to all, esther

annew February 24, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I know a bit about Baha’i and have always liked what I know. I seem to do well with the abstract and struggle in my reality.

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