Thursday, December 29, 2011

Compassion: The preface

I want to write an epistle on compassion.  First I need to clear my head of all the confusion generated by my verification of my sources.  So, here goes.

Compassion: (n) a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

This made me wonder if sympathy is the right word.  I always thought sympathy was a disconnected understanding of another's feelings, while empathy was an understanding from a mutual experience.  Shouldn't the better word be empathy?  Unfortunately, while researching the differences between sympathy and empathy, I discovered every person seems to have a different understanding of the two words.  How then, can I understand compassion if I cannot understand the definition?

My research seemed to come to a stand still.  So what happens when I don't learn what God wants me to learn?  God increases the volume of the message.  I'm standing in line with my wife, waiting for a Master Chef audition, and we meet another contestant.  Her name, in her language, means "compassion".  Then we go wandering into various stores in search of Christmas presents and my wife points out a small version of the Mandala of compassion.  I believe when we don't learn the lessons before us, God presses the point.

So, back to my study.

I once challenged myself to find the fewest words to wrap up everything God wants us to know.  Is there one word to define everything?  I started with the golden rule.  Jesus was asked about the most important commandment.  Love God.  But Jesus doesn't stop there.  He goes on to talk about how we are to interact with one another.  Perhaps "love" is all we need.

Off I went to look up the meaning of love.  I will not waste your time with the waste of time I spent looking for a clear definition. There are too many meanings for the word and simply using the word love without a back story for the word would create more confusion than clarity. To simply say “Love one another” leaves too much to interpretation.  I thought “Show compassion to one another” would be clearer.

Unfortunately, most definitions of compassion presuppose the object of one’s compassion is somehow suffering.  Besides, the use of the word sympathy has almost as many meanings as love.  What is needed is a cleaner definition of God’s desire for us.  Something like “Show compassion to one another” without the need for the recipient to be suffering or the giver to have any form of sorrow for the recipient.  More like: Take the time to understand the needs, fears, and desires of one another.  Then make the effort to help them achieve their goals.

Naturally, my mind spins off into various gyrations of this statement.  Are we to fulfill one another’s fantasies or whims?  What about conflicting goals of different people?  What about people who want another person to suffer?  It seems even my simple statement generates its own issues and lack of clarity.

Now I know why this is taking so long to sort out.  I will have to mull on this more.

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