All the cruelties and atrocities in the world happen because of lack of empathy and compassion.
President Bush and his cohorts could only murder and maim countless men, women and children in Iraq by objectifying human beings as ‘collateral damage’. In other words, by being devoid of empathy and compassion.
The cruelties that people in factory farms and abattoirs inflict on billions of defenceless animals can only happen by shutting down all empathy and compassion for their pain and suffering and objectifying them as ‘food products’.
The violation of children by paedophiles, the mutilation of innocent people by laughing soldiers, the act of planting a bomb on a train that blows human beings to bits, exploiting workers in slave labour, incarcerating people in prisons, torture, rape, violence and every variety of abuse and all the atrocities you can document are only possible through a lack of empathy and compassion for other living beings.
If lack of empathy and compassion is the core problem then logically, developing empathy and compassion is the solution. Compassion is the key to solving all levels of abuse in every relationship on the planet. The great spiritual teachers knew this and taught this simple truth.
Jesus of Nazareth’s true gift was His heightened empathy and compassion for his fellow human beings, expressed freely without prejudice or discrimination.
With penetrating insight, Jesus could see through harmful behaviour to the inner pain of the sinner and, feeling compassion for their heartache, could then extend forgiveness, pardon without punishment, in the warm embrace of grace and mercy.
Jesus’ abilities to heal and perform miracles were in fact not as amazing, and not really the point of his ministry, as much as teaching compassion. Jesus’ supernatural powers were merely a concentrated and accelerated version of God’s everyday abilities. Our bodies, driven by divine intelligence, have the ability to heal, and the creative force of God is continually performing ‘miracles’ in Nature.
What exactly is compassion? Compassion is a type of love; spiritual love the Greeks call Agape. It is a feeling of deep tenderness and kindness that springs from the experience of empathy and understanding for someone’s vulnerability and physical or emotional pain. A compassionate person sees through facades and defences to the inner anguish.
Empathy is the ability to feel someone else’s suffering; to imagine yourself in their situation and allow yourself to momentarily experience their emotions. Empathy connects people and empathy is a leveller that unites people as equals. Sympathy, in contrast, is detached, and sometimes dispensed from a superior distance.
The spiritual qualities of empathy and compassion are inextricably woven together and reside in the heart, like an exquisite flower. From these sweet qualities flow caring actions such as soothing words of comfort and practical acts to help the suffering person feel better.
There are other types of love. Eros is sexual love designed for two people in a committed relationship not to be expressed to everyone and anyone. And Phileo is brotherly love; a platonic, sibling-style love between family members and friends. Bonds of warm affection are formed through this kind of love. Maternal and paternal love are powerful forms of nurturing and protective love for children.
However God’s own love, compassion is the ultimate form of love. Compassion is the essential ingredient that leads to the deepest sense of connection and bonding, intimacy and belonging, with other human beings and all living creatures.
Christ can teach us the art of compassion. This is the starting point; personal coaching sessions with the Divine. And then when your heart is filled, let compassion transform your marriage.
When a couple overcomes self-centredness and develops compassion for each other they reach a depth of love that enriches their hearts like the warmth of a blazing open fire in winter. And sexual expression of love takes on a new dimension of soul connection beyond physical pleasure.
If a husband and wife develop compassion for each other, this generous kind of love will spill out to all other relationships in their life, to their children, family and friends and to the wider community and ultimately the world in a profound ripple effect.
If enough couples cultivated compassion in marriage it could be the starting point for transformation of the planet. The microcosm of compassionate relationships will transform the macrocosm of society.
How do you learn compassion? Compassion is inextricably linked to pain. Jesus knew that compassion is cultivated in the harsh soil of suffering.
A person has to experience and express repressed emotional pain and grief, through tears. Connecting with the buried pain of a lifetime often comes through the breakdown of defences triggered by a major life crisis, trauma or loss. Everyone who has ever lost a child, a parent, a lover, a friend, your health or your dreams knows how grief can smash your heart to pieces. Being heart broken is a catalyst.
The experience of your own inner pain and grief will naturally lead to empathy for other people’s pain. I suspect that George W, all the tyrants and warmongers of the world and all those who inflict suffering on others are dissociated from their own inner pain.
If you are the cause of someone else’s pain, you will then experience remorse, a deep and genuine sorrow, for that person, which is completely different from self-centred guilt. Remorse is a form of contrition steeped in humility. All denial, justification, rationalisations, excuses and blame drop away in the honest scrutiny of the Dark Night of The Soul.
Remorse leads to recognition of sin and a cry for forgiveness, desire for a Saviour and surrender to God. As you fall on your knees in humility, the act of surrender leads to divine connection.
Connection or reconciling with God leads to repentance or re-thinking your future life. A change in thinking, emotions and actions results in Redemption; the transformation to goodness and the beginning of cultivating compassion.
What is the measure of your worth as a human being? The value of a human being is not measured by earning capacity, ownership, beauty, achievements, talents and experiences or even your contribution to society.
Your value as a human being is measured by your ability to feel and express compassion, up close and personal, to other flesh and blood individuals on a daily basis. It is only compassion that makes a human being valuable and worthy of love.
At the end of your life and my life, the extent to which we connected with other human beings and felt and expressed God’s healing balm of empathy and compassion will be the measure of our worth.