The Problem With Compassion


“BLUE FACE”, 2001, 14″ x 14″, m/m
_________________________________

I have had a misconception

About what compassion really is.

We think about Mother Theresa and seriously wonder

Where she finds it in her physical smallness

To be so big?

I think it took us, as a country,

Ten full years to even approach

Climbing over the fence of horror and fear

To reach compassion where 9/11 is concerned.

It was just too big

And we are so very small.

We had to turn away

And wait until we had the capacity to bear it.

The problem with compassion

As I see it

Stems from the mistaken understanding

That in order for me to feel compassion for you

I MUST FEEL IN MY BODY

EXACTLY WHAT YOU FEEL;

I should be feeling so deeply that I cry with you,

Or at the least let my chest curl in on itself

As I let you know your angst over a divorce

Or death of a child

Has been registered over here

And is therefore real.

No. This is not compassion.

With understandings like these, is it any wonder that we turn away

In favor of lighter territory?

When you sit with me

Or see me out and about,

My heart’s desire is only to meet your clear and soft eyes

And be blessed with the ‘take away gift’

Of having been witnessed in some real way.

You see my limp. Yep.. There it is.

You notice my frequent disappearances from my historical ever-presence around town?

Uh huh.. that too.

Do you pity me? Yuk. Please don’t.

That pity may be your own very visceral reaction to what YOU might feel in my situation.

Really, that is probably a dream on your part

As we never can know who we will be in a situation

Until we are there.

Compassion is not ‘work’.

Compassion is the easiest thing you could imagine.

It demands nothing from us

Other than the capacity to WITNESS ANOTHER PERSON.

That’s it…

Just to be still and let someone tell you whatever they have to tell you.

If Mother Theresa were to ‘take on’

All the angst and sadness

Of those she tends,

She would have used herself up long ago.

She sits.

She listens.

She makes it known she has ‘seen’ the other

And that they are NOT ‘other’

But instead: not separate.

Compassion doesn’t even need a word or any sound what-so-ever.

Could be just a gentle and knowing look

Or a wave from a neighbor.

Compassion takes nothing from us.

But it has the capacity

To give us back our humanity.

No work involved.

comments

3 Responses to “The Problem With Compassion”

  1. Judy on September 15th, 2011

    “…she has ‘seen’ the other

    And that they are NOT ‘other’

    But instead: not separate.”

    Therein lies the key to peaceful cohabitation of our planet.

  2. Suzanne on September 15th, 2011

    Wow, powerful, honest and true. Cathy, I love your writing style!

    This, in particular touched me: Thank you.

    Compassion doesn’t even need a word or any sound what-so-ever.

    Could be just a gentle and knowing look

    Or a wave from a neighbor.

    Compassion takes nothing from us.

    But it has the capacity

    To give us back our humanity.

    No work involved.

  3. Margaret Silvia on September 16th, 2011

    Right on!!!! Yes. Witnessing is the transformative agent. Thank you. I love you.

Leave a Reply