Our worst nightmare as a nation , and as individuals: a world ruled by the hardhearted, where everywhere you turn you’re turned away, or harmed.
Exercising Our Compassion
Recently, I learned about an inmate put to death in Texas despite his victim’s son — yes, his victim’s son — pleading for mercy for this man.
The son said that nothing good would come of the execution — only more pain. He said the inmate’s daughter would lose her father, just as he’d lost his father. He pointed out that during years in prison, the inmate had become a force for good.
These truths were discounted.
And again following his father’s murder, the victim’s son had been sunk, again he had been numbed, again he had been hammered.
“Can you see yourself in other people? Can you feel what it’s like to be living as they live? Can you understand that if you were living their lives, you might be acting as they are acting?” msd
What if, whenever we watched another person doing something that displeased us, we considered that this was his or her worst moment? It is said that God forgives us. Who are we, then, not to forgive each other and ourselves?
How astounding that our hearts can expand and contract, expand and contract — at all, so often and so deeply — without bearing permanent damage. Maybe exercising our compassion does for our heart what a good run is meant to.
As We Once Were
“To train in compassion…,” wrote Sogyal Rinpoche in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, “is to know all beings are the same and suffer in similar ways, to honor all those who suffer, and to know you are neither separate from nor superior to anyone.”
There is nothing each of us has not grown from — foolishness, certainly, and perhaps harm we ourselves caused.
Someone we shut out, for whatever reason, might be as we once were, or will be, in this or another lifetime.
One moment we are poor, making judgment on the wealthy; the next moment we are rich with inheritance.
Henri Nouwen wrote in his book, The Wounded Healer: “Forgiveness is only real for him who has discovered the weakness of his friends and the sins of his enemies in his own heart and is willing to call every human being his brother.”
Can you look into my eyes and see you there?
A man cruelly treated by his parents turned his own anguish into help for horses and for the people who keep and care for them.
This man speaks of horses’ desire to survive and says he can relate to that.
When he was a child, he did not know from one day to the next if he would survive. For him, suffering became the road out, the route home.
Perhaps One Person Did Not Turn Away.
We each can think of thoughts we have had we are glad no one is aware of. We can think of things we have done — or have not done — for questionable reasons.
People turned away from us because they were embarrassed for us or repelled by us.
Perhaps one person did not turn away. Perhaps that person stroked our arm or gave us a look that said “I’m here,” or “Don’t worry, I’ve been there. It’s okay.”
We each blunder in our lifetimes. It is gratifying to be with someone who realizes we are all similar in this way.
The Fidelity of Pao Chou Ya
An old Chinese chronicle talks of the fidelity of Pao Chou Ya to his friend Kouan Tchong Wou. Said Kouan of his wise benefactor:
“When I was in great want, I went into business with my great friend Pao Chou Ya. On one occasion I kept most of the profits for myself, but he never reproached me, because he knew how poor I was.
Another time I failed, but he never reproached me as a fool, because he knew everyone had a good time or bad time in life.
I went to the war fronts three times and ran away from them three times. But he never reproached me as a coward, because he knew I had my old mother at home….
It was my parents who gave birth to me, but it was Pao Chuo Ya who knew me in the true sense of the word.”
How Could She Pray For Those People?
Ruby Bridges was six-years-old when, in New Orleans, she became the first black child to enter an all-white school.
Ruby turned to hecklers in the crowd in front of the school and prayed for them out loud. She asked God to forgive them, saying they did not know what they were doing.
When questioned how she could pray for these people, considering how they were treating her, she answered: “Don’t you think they need praying for then?”
An interviewer asked the Dalai Lama what sustained him during his exile. The Tibetan leader answered that it was not so much determination that kept him and other Tibetans going, but compassion.
One Tibetan monk, speaking of the years he had been imprisoned, said the worst danger he had faced was losing compassion for the Chinese.
All Violence The Same
When my daughter, Jenny, was in college, a number of young university women who lived near her were brutally murdered. Jenny expressed sorrow for the young women who died, and for their families.
She also expressed sorrow over whatever pain in the murderer had caused him to act so savagely.
In this same conversation, she spoke sadly of the cutting of old growth forests, calling all violence the same.
Can Something Good Come From This?
People say: “That person hurt you. Why aren’t you angry at her? You should make him pay. Are you going to let them get away with that?!” Or maybe this is what we tell ourselves.
But there are other questions: “What gain would come from hurting this person? How else can I look at what is happening between us? Can something good come from this — for me? For everyone?”
Thanks for reading. This post was inspired by a section from my book, Caring In Remembered Ways: The Fruit of Seeing Deeply.
Both Caring In Remembered Ways and my website celebrate compassion and the oneness of all life.
Medium posts, the same. Here’s one (below)I hope you find worthwhile. Thank you for clapping/responding/following/sharing if you’re moved to. Means much.