Tag Archives: compassion

The Dying Meaning of Compassion: Just a Line On Your Receipt?

Image by Joey Lawrence

In today’s world, everything is “fat free”. For some reason we still marry “until death do us part” though divorce rates say otherwise, and on the internet we see articles like ‘10 “Amazing” Dog Houses’ or ‘5 “Amazing” Facts About Chocolate’. Are dog houses really all that “amazing”? These words have one thing in common: they have all lost their meaning. Like “liberalist” and even “love”, their overuse and lack of appreciation takes away their specialty. 

So what about “compassion”? Media and politicians love to shove this word down the public’s throat, typically after some national disaster. 

“Show compassion, buy this shirt and some of your money will go through our agency and (maybe) go towards helping these people in need!” 

Of course this is not what they say, but this is essentially what it is. 

“America, we need to have compassion for those affected by this disaster. Send money to this fund!” 

When broken down to its Latin roots, “compassion” stands for “co-suffering”, but by today it simply means “to have a personal connection, empathy, and sympathy with those who suffer”. What many fail to realize is, although the government and charitable agencies help the needy, money alone does not reach the poverty of the soul. I believe we need to restore our original meaning of compassion and take a more personal approach to banishing issues like poverty. 

While buying a ticket at my local theatre, the cashier asked if wanted to donate a dollar to a children’s fund. I always give to these requests when possible, but being charitable in this way sparks no true compassion – no personal connection. My donation is out of sight and out of mind once I hand it over. I don’t even get to witness the fruits of my generosity. So I forget all about it, and my good deed is given nothing more than it’s own line on my receipt. Is that compassion? 

Of course, money is essential in fixing society’s issues, but giving this way seems to have one of two effects on most people. You can give your dollar and go on your way feeling like you’ve done your part, or you give your dollar and never think of it again because you see and feel no benefit – no bliss in helping others. Unfortunately, in dealing with donors on a daily basis, I know all too well how “compassion fatigued” people get when realizing their money has seemingly been thrown into a void. 

Monetary donations are good for immediate and temporary fixes, but it’s going to take the crucial role of compassionate individuals to banish these problems for good. Money is not personal, and when we individuals make no personal connection to those suffering with issues like poverty, the real solutions to these tribulations lay stagnant. 

So let’s revive the meaning of “compassion”, let’s deal intimately with poverty. If we all realize that those who are impoverished are just as human with just as deep of feelings; if we learn what we all have in common, we can start teaching the world how to react to the visible poor: not by turning a blind eye, but by reaching into the soul of poverty. 

I suggest reading this excellent article on cultivating compassion at ZenHabits. Personally my favorite practice is the “commonalities practice” (#3 in the article). In this, Leo Babauta states: 

“At the root of it all, we are all human beings. We need food, and shelter, and love. We crave attention, and recognition, and affection, and above all, happiness. Reflect on these commonalities you have with every other human being, and ignore the differences.” 

 What do you think, readers?


 

Update…

Sorry folks for the slight delay of today’s post. I went to a cookout the actual day this post was to be done, and must have gotten food posioning because my stomach was acting in revenge for quite some time. I ended up doing a lot of reading on this particular topic of “compassion”, and wound up ordering a book titled, The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky, which seems to touch upon (in depth, of course) the dying meaning of this word. So I may have more to say on this issue once I get this book in my hands, but for now, have a great day and thanks for reading.