Having the Courage to Do Less in the Face of Suffering

How to do it, and knowing when it's appropriate

Leo Greenwood
Age of Empathy

--

a parent holds the hand of a child
Photo by Marina Abrosimova on Unsplash

When we see someone struggling, there’s often a strong tendency to do something to alleviate their pain. I’m beginning to question however, just how much of that assistance is about alleviating our own suffering, realised in the observation of the struggle of others. Sometimes, perhaps, we ought to do less.

Doing too much

Helplessness

The sound of a baby crying is a painful noise to process, let alone hear. I hear it and feel what seems like a biological compulsion— as opposed to a social pressure — to do something to help. In this moment I see two things very clearly:

  1. There is pain enough in this living being to cry out to their environment (ostensibly a risky strategy in a world of things that might enjoy eating it)
  2. There is a clear inability to help itself

I’m not sure exactly when or where it starts, so we’ll avoid that pitfall, but it does seem to be the case that these two points become conflated to mean the same thing:

If one cries out, one cannot continue without external help

--

--

Leo Greenwood
Age of Empathy

The Universe thinks about itself in interesting ways from here. Philosopher, author, in love with the miracle of existence. leogreenwood.com