Sunday, September 02, 2007

One Sure Way To Separate The Good Guys From The Bad Guys

Make no judgments where you have no compassion.
- Anne McCaffrey, US author (born 1926)

Compassion separates us into two groups, those who care about people and those who care about money and/or power.

In politics, the groups usually have different party names. Those who care about people claim that the others put money above all else, though the accused may say different. Those who want power and money charge the people parties of being poor managers of money, wasteful of the hard-earned taxes of the very people they say that try to help. Both are correct, at least to some degree, no matter what the country.

In religion, the power/money groups claim that their religion either is the only true religion or stands above the others in terms of favour with the deity of choice. They may say that their followers will be the only ones to enter heaven or that there may be a lesser form of heaven for followers of other religions, plus a hell for non-believers.

Those who care about people function both inside and without religion. Some call themselves atheists. In most cases the self declared atheists (or agnostics) find the hypocrisies, the distortions of fact and the hunger for power so disgusting that they say they can't believe in God, in fact meaning that they can't believe in the kind of God that those they find repulsive worship.

They may have trouble sorting through the evidence presented to them about God by religionists, yet have not yet searched other evidence to find the real God. Their declaration of atheism is more a form of conscientious objection to the kind of religion offered by religionists than a rejection of God the deity.

Other kinds of people who care about people call themselves spiritualists, believers in spiritualism. Spiritualism is a category of religion by its connotative meaning, as found in a dictionary. However, it's denotative meaning (that by which it is understood by people) attracts those who care about people because the activities they involve themselves with tend to be people-centred.

When two compassionate people marry, they have a strong likelihood that their marriage will last through all sorts of upheavals and trials, good times and bad.

When two people who are not compassionate marry or when one compassionate person marries another who is not compassionate, the likelihood is high that the marriage will not last. Mostly because the people who lack compassion treat marriage is a business arrangement, a contract that can be broken when the business no longer interests them.

What makes one person compassionate and other lacking that characteristic is a mystery. A child may be compassionate as an adult despite the fact that both parents lacked that capacity. What commonly drives such people is the determination to not be like their parents.

The same set of experiences that hurt one person deeply, making that person forever sensitive to those with problems and wanting to help others throughout their lives may turn another person cold so that money or power become their primary motivations in life.

It seems that those with compassion have been hurt, hurt deeply, and recovered. Virtually all compassionate people agree with that. Yet those adults who lack compassion have been hurt as well. Hurt is not the defining characteristic of compassionate people, though they may remember it more and use it as their reason for helping others while those who do not develop compassion cover their hurt, trying to bury it.

For some, compassion comes as an epiphany, much like what happened to Saul the tax collector in the Christian Bible when he was struck blind (temporarily) and later became known as Paul (he was Greek and Paul was not a Greek name, but that is the name by which he came to be known in English), a devoted follower who wrote several books of the Bible. It arrives suddenly and unexpectedly for them.

Can a person who lacks compassion learn to be compassionate? Yes, but few seek that route except as a last resort to save or prevent something from happening. They believe that money and power are the most important things in life. Those values are hard to shake, just as it's hard to dislodge compassion from one with that characteristic.

Compassion can be learned only by someone who wants to learn it. It must be learned in a setting that has been devised mostly for that purpose--such as a support group, club or church group. The learning process must be directed by someone with great knowledge and experience with adult learning techniques.

In medicine compassion is called bedside manner. In law some pro bono work is done for reasons of compassion, while others do it for public relations benefits or tax writeoffs. Patients or clients of compassionate professionals consider themselves fortunate, while those of professionals who lack compassion have little good to say about their experiences. Hence the bad rep for lawyers and varying opinions about doctors.

As hard as compassion is to pin down, all those with compassion have a turning point in their lives wherein compassion becomes part of them. Most know what that turning point was, though some do not.

One thing about compassion is certain: you can't buy it. Only hucksters would try to sell courses on compassion. If it's not free, it's not a route to compassion.

The route to compassion hurts. However, the hurt may be love so it's not something to avoid. Hurt, in some cases, is another form of love.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book that includes directions about how and when to make use of experiences that may be turned into compassionate characteristics.
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