How Can We Increase Our Compassion for Others?

The other day a friend was sharing with me the trouble he sometimes has feeling for others the kind of compassion that he knows Jesus would want him to.

“I want to love everyone,” he said. “But sometimes I’m talking with a person, or just watching someone, or whatever, and I realize that the feelings I’m having toward that person aren’t very compassionate. I try, but sometimes it’s hard for me not to just be angry.”

So that got me thinking about some of the things anyone can do to increase their level of compassion for others.

I think the first, easiest, and most effective way of opening up your capacity for loving others is to really, really listen to people. Listen to their pain; watch for their discomfort; become aware of all the little signs that people are constantly giving off that they’re unsure, afraid, confused, defeated. Allow your love, empathy, and compassion to be triggered by those signs. Let your heart feel the fullness of the suffering of others.

Contrarily, an outstanding way to develop compassion for others is to observe how strong people are, how valorous, how brave, how confident, how loving, how much fun.

There isn’t a person in this world who, within a minute of being with them, won’t do or say something for which you can genuinely love them. Maybe it will be the way they smile. Maybe you’ll be able to appreciate how kindly they treat others. Maybe you’ll find charming the way they keep their possessions so tidy and organized — or the way they don’t, ever.  (Personally, I’m invariably touched at a very deep level by the way people move their hands; there’s just something elementally compelling that happens in my heart when I focus in on that infinitely elegant little ballet.) All that sort of stuff — just the regular, everyday things about the way people are and live — can be entirely endearing. All you have to do is let them be so for you.

People are lovable; and we are, after all, by nature designed to love our own kind. Go with that. Open yourself up the truth that all men and women really are your brothers and sisters.

Finally (and this would be for you religious types), develop the practice of viewing people not through your eyes, but through the eyes of God within you. None of us can help but to at least in some degree see others in terms relative to ourselves: Is this or that person better looking than we are? More successful? Happier? More powerful? Less powerful — and on and on and on. Making those kinds of relative evaluations of others is entirely natural. It’s an instinct. It’s part of what we do when we interact with or observe others. But it also tends to make us feel toward others critical instead of loving.

We see people in relative terms. God, however, sees them in only one way: with love.

With the help of the Holy Spirit (or in whatever religious tradition you might understand the power and presence of God or the Higher Nature within you), we can see them that way, too.

Let’s make a point of daily praying for the patience and wisdom to do just that.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • vj

    What a lovely post!

    For me, I have found that ‘pray for your enemies’ is a key element of feeling towards others a little of what God does, rather than taking everything personally/negatively. Whenever I remind myself to pray for someone who is not seeming lovable to me, I find that I very quickly start to feel much more positive about that person. It’s hard to hold a grudge against someone when you are sincerely asking God to bless them, keep them safe etc (but I’m pretty sure they have to be genuine prayers, and not manipulation disguised as spirituality!).

    • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

      Yes, very nice, vj. The first (prayers from a place of empathy and compassion) = spirit guided or compassion centered prayer vs. the latter (manipulation disguised as spirituality) = ego centered, not of the spirit. There’s such a difference. It seems to be less about the prayer itself than it is about the heart that offers it. I grew up hearing the mantra “Prayer changes things.” Which may be true, but as I get older I’m seeing more and more how, from a compassionate heart, prayer changes us so that we might act to change things.

  • Dirk

    John, I felt deep compassion for the elderly who had lost everything in those storms. They certainly weren’t (and still very much aren’t) easy people to care for. Arch conservative and frequently racist. But they are old, they can’t change and they need help. Not one of them attacked me for being gay.

    The other helpers from the Christian churches, however – wow. That first minute was used to launch their attacks.

    So, no, sorry, I don’t see anything worth feeling anything but anger. Fury, rage and strong desire to drive back behind the Constitutional wall of separation of church and state for my enemies, the conservative Christians.

    There are some people for whom compassion is wasted. Conservative Christians are definitely among them.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Don’t you feel sorry for people whose lives are informed by hatred? I’m not saying it’s the ONLY feeling you have for them, but isn’t that PART of the feelings you have toward them? And if not, then how are you different/better than they?

  • Dirk

    No, John, not one iota more of anything but loathing, hatred, fury, rage and the keen desire to go to the absolute legal limit to make their lives on earth as absolutely horrid as they have made those of gay people.

    I ran out of patience in the aftermath of the tornadoes and storms. While we gays and lesbians and a few transgender were working hard to help the poor, the elderly, the widowed, the orphaned (hint: That long-haired sandal wearing phreak spoke at length about this…oh, right, sorry, he was only a Jew, so his opinion doesn’t count), we were being constantly told what awful sinners we were and how we needed to be saved and find their holy Jeebus.

    I’m done with conservative Christians. The more we try to be fair and rational towards them, the more they deny us human status and basic civil rights.

    There comes a time in every fight for human freedom when one must accept that one’s enemies are beyond reason. That time has long since arrived.

    By every legal means possible, but without pardon, forgiveness or the least tolerance. The conservative Christians must be brought to their knees.

    And you may take that any way you like.

    • melissa

      You seem to be strapped by the same hate for them that they have for you. Hate is hate, and it covers nothing but anger. Compassion and understanding will heal those things, but you cannot have compassion when you refuse to love. Loving the crass and selfish is the hardest for me, yet I understand what makes them that way, and they no more can run away from their convictions as we do from ours.

      • Dirk

        One major exception, melissa.

        I am the one who has had his human status stripped from him.

        I am the one who has had his civil rights denied him.

        They have done this to me.

        Major, big difference. I tried for over three decades to work within the Christian community.

        Had you followed my comments here over time, you would be aware that this is not a conclusion I came to simply or easily.

        Your facile comments are less than worthless, they are, in fact an endorsement of the hatred and denigration which we gays, lesbians and the transgender suffer at the hands of conservative Christians.

        • vj

          Oh, Dirk, you are so eloquent in giving expression to the pain you have felt over the years, the result of appalling and obnoxious behavior of those who think themselves better than you. Your anger and bitterness is evident, and entirely understandable. And yet…

          I would urge you to consider the truth of the saying that “not forgiving someone is taking the poison and hoping the other person will die”. Forgiving (and therefore finding even a smidgen of compassion for anyone who has treated you as you have described – man, people are just plain rude, never mind anything else!!) will definitely not be easy, but for your OWN well-being you might want to consider giving it a try. [Which is not all to suggest that you stop advocating for your rights, and asking others to join you in that fight].

          You have been treated dreadfully. But I am also reminded of something that has stuck with me for a long time. Years ago, Chris Rock was on Oprah. He recounted a story of how he was badly treated (called names, etc) by his white classmates in high school. Many years later, after making it big, he visited his hometown. The limo that fetched him from the airport was driven by one of the biggest culprits from his high school torment. Rock was tempted to ‘rub in’ his own success compared to the other guy’s low achievement in life – but then, he decided that if he sank to that level, he would in some way be ‘justifying’, after the fact, their mistreatment of him. And so he didn’t deliver the comeuppance he was tempted to, but treated the driver with the respect he would have wanted to receive in high school, one human being to another.

          This story sticks with me both for the clarity of truth embedded within it, and for the strength of character displayed.

          • Christy

            This is lovely, vj.

          • Dirk

            Right, so the next time my husband is taken to emergency in the US and I am denied my rights to be by his side, to make decisions for him as we have clearly legally regulated, I should just not be bitter, angry and furious?

            Sorry, but you are speaking from the lofty ivory tower of the unaffected.

            There is a real war being waged against us gays in America. Waged against us by the conservative Christians.

            Your quiet counsel so does not apply when we are being beaten, raped, murdered and denied our civil and human rights.

            Nice thought, though.

            Let’s see – how many of the homeless kids out on the street in the US are gay or transgender? What was that figure again? Oh, right – more than one-third, less than one-half were kicked out onto the street as CHILDREN by their oh-so-’Christian’ parents.

            This is a war. We are being killed.

          • DR

            I….I wouldn’t go there with people who are gay, vj. I know you mean well and I don’t disagree but they are in total crisis as a result of us – they feel physically threatened – this is a pretty delicate thing.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            What of the whole, “Loving our enemies” thing?

          • Dirk

            We gays are practicing love in that we are not killing, raping, beating, torturing and stripping the conservative Christians of their human status and civil rights.

            We do not only ‘feel’ threatened, we are under physical attack.

            Actual physical violence.

            In never before seen numbers.

            Save the platitudes and read the newspapers – the real ones, not the Murdoch yellow press nor yet the lies of Faux news.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            Dirk, I’m on your side. I have no fuzzy warm feelings for the fundamentalists who emotionally and spiritually abused me as a child and who sexually abused my friend and relatives and who continue to do so to others today. But I have learned that the hate and anger I felt and often still feel for them blocks my compassion and makes me unhappy and miserable. I’ve come to agree with Dr. King and other non-violent leaders when they expressed the understanding that hate will not drive out hate, only love will do this.

            The abusers can’t teach what they do not know. This is how I understand them. I don’t excuse them. I don’t ignore them. I don’t give them a free pass. I don’t passively sit by and hope they will go away. But I’m no longer eaten from the inside out with anxiety, rage, and hate. I can fight how they vote, counter what they say, and expose how they think. I can work to undo the damage they have done by trying to influence hearts and minds and enlighten them. I can speak out about truth and pain and suffering and what is right and fair and just. I can create cognitive dissonance.

            But I can’t control them or what they think or feel; I can control how I let myself feel about them and how I choose to react to it.

            Love, like peace, is more than the absence of violence.

            And, for the record, I think Murdoch is getting the Karma right now that has been slow in coming to him.

          • Dirk

            Christy,

            I appreciate that.

            We need all the allies we can get.

            A point is reached in any war when one must fight back.

            With every (and only with) legal means possible.

            These conservative Christians have gone much, much further than the vast majority of real Christians believe.

            Partly because they, themselves would never do such things.

            Partly because they are, themselves, not really comfortable with homosexuality and being transgender.

            Partly because they simply don’t see it as a real issue.

            For over three decades, (I keep saying this here, and people keep acting like I’m some not-too-well educated Christian who hasn’t a clue), for over 30 years, I tried the reasonable approach.

            Things have only gotten worse.

            There I am, in mud and filth and dust and ick up to here, trying to rescue an old lady’s photo album from what once was her BRICK home and is now a pile of ruble and this conservative, red-nex Christian tells me he knows where my parents live and if’n I’m not out of town by sunset (not making this up) he’ll take care of them.

            That’s conservative Christianity. That is reality for us gays.

            So maybe it is time to stop the lectures on being all loving and caring and how the hatred just eats us inside and to acknowledge just how bad things have become in America for us.

          • vj

            Dirk, I would never even suggest that you stop exposing the awfulness of what you are being subjected to. We who have not been subjected to such treatment need to be told (repeatedly) what is happening, and the perpetrators need to be named and shamed. They are bullies and hypocrites.

            I absolutely acknowledge that, and I’m sorry that I’ve come across as trying to lecture you. I don’t live in America, but I have felt your pain through what you have written, and was hoping only to be a quiet voice trying to help you see that holding on to hate, anger, rage and bitterness is harming you even more than the misery inflicted on you by others. I believe that it’s possible to surrender the hatred while still being active in exposing those who cause it. Righteous anger liberates, but bitterness enslaves.

            Nelson Mandela was imprisoned by a brutal regime; when he was finally released, he chose the path of reconciliation instead of conflict. As a South African, I am grateful every day that he did. I would love for you to find a similar healing, because you deserve it.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            I acknowledge how bad things have become in America. I agree with how desperately dangerous fundamentalism is, and I am committed to this cause and other causes for justice. I have sounded the alarm far and wide regarding the dominionist, theocratic leanings of representatives who seek public office. I spent twenty years deeply embedded in fundamentalism, thirteen years in a Baptist school, survived a fundamentalist cult, and yet managed not to throw God out with the filthy, stinking, rotten, devastating, soul-crushing, brain-washing dogma bath water. These experiences have permitted quite the realistic vision of what is at stake.

            Your experience is not lost on me, Dirk, and I am so deeply sorry for the way you and so many others have been and continue to be treated and abused. It is completely unacceptable. It should be unfathomable, and yet I know, first hand, how they will treat their own as horribly as they do, and how their fear and distrust for ones outside their circle is exponentially greater.

            And yet I understand why they do what they do as I share DNA with folks like your red-nex guy, who is an ignorant, fearful soul who wouldn’t recognize the love of Christ if it bit him on his Levis. In fact, he was likely taught to distrust anyone advertising *that* Jesus as being a bastardization of the gospel, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a false prophet. And yet the God he doesn’t know, loves him anyway. Darndest thing.

            We have a responsibility to tell the truth of our truth. I’ve long thought that the President should have a cabinet level member whose job it is to advise that office of the worldview of Christian fundamentalism. This might have avoided the Waco, TX tragedy. It would shed light on the current budget talks, the fear of Islam and xenophobia in general. It’s a huge issue in the fight for gay rights, women’s rights, for the environment, for Middle East peace, against war, and for domestic programs that serve the poor, the vulnerable, the sick, and the elderly.

            Some people, I am learning, are immune to cognitive dissonance. Reason will not remove ideas that weren’t placed there by reason. Some flatly refuse to consider new information because they are afraid they *will* change their mind. We either have to speak to people in terms and language that they understand so that they might see what they aren’t currently able or willing to see, or we have to abandon a certain segment of the immovable and make progress where seeds of change can and will grow, where new ideas are welcomed rather than shunned and are seen as a way of sharing wisdom and insight rather than as “tricks of the devil meant to deceive them.”

            So often throughout history we have seen how the cycle of oppression causes the oppressed to eventually become the oppressors. As vj referenced, Nelson Mandela was committed to breaking that cycle in South Africa. Gandhi reminded us that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. We can’t afford to become the oppressor in the process. We can fight injustice. We can do what’s right. But we can’t lose ourselves to the internal struggle of hate and violence that allows others to do and say the unholy things that they do.

          • Dirk

            For over thirty years I worked from within the Christian community, trying to understand, forgive and gently reproove my Christian brothers and sisters in the Love of the Lord.

            No more.

            All these empty words of not hating them, having compassion for them..you are not being raped, murdered, beaten, tortured.

            Your parents are not being threatened.

            No doubt you mean well. Equally clear is that you really haven’t grasped just how bad things are for gays and the transgender right now. Worse than at anytime in recent memory.

          • DR

            Thanks Dirk, you’re right. It’s far more than you just “feeling” threatened. You’re actually *in* danger and the word “feels” connotes that it’s all in your head. I know it’s not.

            You’re not a Christian and you’re talking about this issue with people who are which can get complicated. I can only speak for myself, but the privilege that comes with being a Christian in America as well as the theology that I operate within being such a part of our culture here in America, is hard to shake. As a result, I can communicate in universals and unconsciously have expectations that you should “forgive” because I believe that’s the healthiest thing for you (regardless of your belief system). But I need to remember I am a straight, Christian woman. I will never begin to understand what this is like for you and if I’m speaking for you or pushing you to an experience that you’re not interesting in pursuing on your own, please tell me. Tell us. You have the right to move at your own pace and we should trust that the beliefs you have and you choose to hold onto will ultimately serve you, the people in your life and the world at large in ways that are productive.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            Anger can be a strong motivator. There is much in our world today deserving of our anger and our immediate and urgent attention. Yet without wisdom, that anger will be misplaced and misused.

            Hate and intolerance are the enemies. They always have been. We are all capable of them. When we eradicate them in ourselves and in others, we all win.

          • DR

            Because Dirk is not a Christian, Christy. That’s asking him to live by our expectations and standards of something that Jesus is asking us to do – Jesus is not His authority.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            Actually, I responded to your comment by asking about the loving of our enemies issue.

            His religious self-identity seems at least unknown or it might seem that one could infer from his statement of having “worked inside the Christian community for thirty years” and by calling them his “Christian brothers and sisters” that he might self-identify as such or at least he used to. Either way, I’ve made no assumptions about his belief system. And I’m sure he’d rather us not talk about it as if he weren’t in the room.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            PS: and as Brian W. noted, I rarely quote the Bible (it depends on the situation). I could have just as easily told the story of the Dalai Lama interviewing a Buddhist monk who had been imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese. When His Holiness asked the monk if he was ever afraid the monk demurred several times avoiding answering the question until HH pressed once more. Then the monk finally replied: “I was afraid I would lose compassion for the Chinese.”

            If you check my info on FB, I list my religious views as: compassion transcends selfishness. It isn’t just a Christian concept, but the foundation of all moral teaching and all of the world’s religions.

            We are not each other’s enemies. Hate, intolerance and ignorance are the enemy.

      • kimberly

        just a side note… while watching a special on the deadly outbreak of tornadoes of this past spring, and hearing the statistic that concluded that the deep south, the bible belt if you will, owns the record for damage in dollars, lives taken, tornadoes highest on the fujita (sic?) scale, and number of tornadoes per year, for the entire world, i asked myself why not one atheist, liberal, progressive christian, jerk, butthead, etc, had uttered the horrifying and shameful accusation that the cause of these deadly storms had anything to do with the activity and words of the religious right towards their fellow human beings, women, the poor, immigrants, LGBQT,other races, liberals etc. but i already knew the answer. and any thinking, compassionate, intelligent person already knows that answer too. maybe especially someone who follows the teachings of christ, (though i do not believe that compassion and forgiveness are only found in christianity). there is a part of the very human and assinine me that would love to hear it spoken just once, to see the reaction of all of the small and petty minds who normally blame natural disasters on their chosen ‘enemy’ of the week. to see how they like it, to see them experience the shock of being blamed for something so dreadfully painful. for just once, to see their ‘sins’ come to roost on their heads, as they have so often pummeled others. and yet, i know how very wrong that is. strength of character, christian character and compassion, it is a daily choice, it is a daily struggle against the world we live in with so many who choose to speak hatefully, to use words, and now legislation, to hurt and punish and starve and deny rights to those they dislike. forgiveness is hard. compassion is hard. but it is what christ would have us to do. and we will, none of us, make it every time. i don’t. but i keep trying. and we should keep encouraging each other to try.

        • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

          Actually, I seem to remember reading comments to an article or two on HuffPo regarding the storms and seeing people gleeful over the damage and death toll cheering things like “God got something right for once!” and such. Seeing as how most of said commentators didn’t believe in God, really, it was more like a joke. But they were gleeful.

          I found such an attitude as disgusting as I find such attitudes when the religious right wingnuts do it. following disasters.

          • LSS

            Yeah i kinda was thinking i saw something about that, too.

    • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

      Hate the game, not the player

      • Dirk

        It is not a game for us gay people. It is reality.

        Please take facile new-age nonsense and save it for your trite understanding of life.

        We are stripped of our rights, we are declared barbarians and sub-human.

        This is not a game.

        • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

          “Hate the game, not the player” originated in the African-American community. As bad as your group’s problems have been, theirs have been worse. They won through perseverance, love, and a willingness to forgive their tormentors.

          • DR

            Wow. What in the world gives you the authority to tell someone who is actually in physical danger the that their issues aren’t as ‘bad’ as someone else’s when you’ve never experienced either? You’re a straight, white male, buzz. You don’t know what either group has gone through (neither do I) and you have no authority to make a judgement call on this. You don’t get the last word on what a gay man feels, thinks, how angry he is or how he should communicate it. None of us do.

            If we’re going to be open to this issue it means that we simply accept the outrage – even the hatred – this community has for us. And not try to change it because it makes *us* uncomfortable.

          • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

            DR, Africans were rounded up in large numbers, shipped to this country, sold as slaves, regularly beaten/mutilated/tortured just for being black, denied the right to vote/own property/hold public office for generations. They responded w/patience, perseverance, dignity & compassion.

            And ya know what? They won! Birmingham was the tipping point: I grew up in the South at that time & I can tell you when Bull Connor waded into the protestors, the majority of Southern whites started saying to themselves “If this is what it takes to maintain the old system, maybe the old system isn’t worth maintaining”

            The victory didn’t come instantly or immediately after that, but it was achieved. We’re going through the mopping up operation right now, so to speak, but the victory is there, accomplished not through violent confrontation but through non-violence.

            Dr. King was right when he urged African-Americans to love those who persecuted them. He didn’t mean they had to throw open their arms and embrace them, he just meant they had to decide in their hearts that achieving equality was worth the cost of burying the hatchet, of being willing to live at peace with people who had previously been sworn enemies.

            The GLBT community has had a rough history in the US. Shaming, ridicule, bullying, taunting, beatings, murders, etc. are wrong, period, end of discussion. It was not right that they were socially stigmitized & legally punished for private behaviors.

            It was bad, it was wrong, it should never have happened, the individuals who suffered suffered no more & no less than the individuals who suffered among the African-American community or the Indian nations.

            But the African-Americans & the American Indians have, for the most part, opted to bury the hatchet, say “that was then, this is now” and move on. It doesn’t undo the pain and suffering their ancestors endured, but it makes it possible for them and their descendants to live w/o that burden of hate.

            Dirk has every right in the world to be p.o.ed. I’m p.o.ed over a lot of things, too. I don’t see the point in lashing out & letting that hatred fester b/c when it does it just hurts me, not the people who p.ed me o.

            Hard cord fundamentalists are not going to be accepting of GLBTs any more than the KKK will be accepting of non-whites. But just as the KKK was once a power house & has now descended to buffoon status, so will the anti-GLBT hate mongers. Openly hating them just gives ‘em strength.

          • DR

            None of this changes my point to you, Buzz. You – or I – or anyone – telling Dirk what is “worse”, comparing his pain to anyone else’s and trying to qualify it as something is totally inappropriate. We don’t have the last word on this, and with all due respect? You not seeing the point of his behavior doesn’t mean sh!$ to a gay man or woman – why would you expect that?

          • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

            And if the shoe were on the other foot? If Dirk was a fundie ranting against gays, or a racist ranting against non-whites? Bad is bad is bad is bad is bad is bad.

            You return hate for hate, congrats, you’re a hater, too. You’re no different from the haters you’re hating.

            And as to saying no one else is allowed to make an objective observation on another person’s behavior/beliefs, bull-oney. If you listen to an anti-gay Fundie rant & didn’t bring an objective ethical standard to it, you’d be tacitly agreeing w/that position. Not all opinions are equal, not all ideas are “fair & balanced”. It is 100% legit to point this out to anyone who wants to justify hating someone else for whatever reason. The moment you say it’s okay for you to hate for any reason, you give permission to everyone else to hate for whatever reasons they want to concoct.

            “There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too.” — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

            Yeah, let’s stop bad behavior. Let’s make laws that are more decent and humane than what we have now.

            But for the love of all that’s sweet & holy, stop the hate. To quote Rocket J. Squirrel: “That trick NEVER works!”

          • DR

            And if the shoe were on the other foot? >>

            The shoe will never be on the other foot. Period. You as a straight white male – me as a straight white female – will never understand what this is like and what our community has done just because we *observe* it. We don’t get to have the last word on this or speak to it with any kind of authority. If you believe you should? Then that’s your privilege talking.

          • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

            At DR re your last post:

            “I guess they had it comin’.”

            “We all have it comin’, kid.”

            – THE UNFORGIVEN

  • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I feel like sharing something geeky.

    I’m a fan of Japanese media and there’s a unique piece that’s my favorite – an anime and manga series called “Trigun.” It’s a weird little science-fiction/western series about a gunslinger whose improbable aiming skills means that he can also be a pacifist. Vash can hurt the bad guys without killing them. He has scars all over his body because he refuses to kill vicious people who have no problem trying to kill him. Anyway, the story plays heavily with themes of compassion/forgiveness/redemption. Our hero, Vash, carries the vow of “thou shall not kill” and preaches love and peace. His twin brother, however, is a genocidal maniac. They look human, but belong to a non-human, genetically-engineered race. They’re the only ones that are not confined to giant light bulbs and harnessed for energy.

    The “Plant” race are not just opressed – they’re used for electrical power and killed by people who mismanage them when they’re “used up.” So, Knives (yes, that’s his name) has a very good reason to hate humanity. Vash, on the other hand, remembers their adoptive mother’s kindness and loves mankind, anyway.

    In topics regarding “compassion” and “forgiving one’s enemies,” this particular passage from “Trigun Maximum” Volume 5 comes to mind. For context, it is Vash (the good guy, crazy human-lover) and Knives (“Kill all humans!” ) arguing with each other.

    “Say, having lived with them for nearly a hundred years… have you ever once felt hatred for the human race?!”

    “Stop it…”

    “I don’t think so. This is important.”

    “I’m not like you.”

    “When I first saw those scars on your body… I was speechless. How many times have you been betrayed? How many times have you been hurt? How many times have you been lied to? How many times have you been humiliated? Been treated as something other than human? Had that which was dearest to you taken away? Had your word put to question? Been laughed at as they ground you into the dirt?”

    *Crazy stuff is happening with Vash’s genetic-structure energy-weapon*

    “Face reality. You’re a walking contradition. Your lovely idealism and foolish pride are eating away at your heart, right?!”

    …. Then Knives forces Vash to use his freaky inborn energy-weapon to obliterate a city, killing many friends Vash had made there.

    It starts out as a goofy-looking series, but gets really, really tragic deeper in – that’s about midway into the story and a flashback into the past of the world. What’s perhaps even cooler is that I found out via some transcribed interview that the guy who wrote/drew the manga is actually a very rare Japanese Roman Catholic (which settles an argument I had with another fan about religious imagery in the series. You’d have thought Vash’s best friend – a preist character who carries a cross (shaped gun) around everywhere would have tipped her off, but some people are thick, I guess). In any case, I thought to that quote – and how Vash remains a true hero of mine becuase what his brother said there IS ALL TRUE – yet he continues in his love and peace ways.

    I’m sorry if I just stunk up the blog with geek fumes, but sometimes, I think fiction speaks to us in profound ways. I think it’s somtimes better than straight-up reality for that.

  • http://cultureofempathy.com/ Edwin Rutsch

    May I suggest a further resources to learn more about empathy and compassion.

    The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

    The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews,  videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.

    http://CultureOfEmpathy.com

    Also, we invite you to post a link to your article about empathy to our Empathy Center Facebook page.

    http://Facebook.com/EmpathyCenter

    • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

      Also worth exploring: The Charter for Compassion. “The Charter for Compassion is a cooperative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but, more important, compassionate action to the center of religious, moral and political life. Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and lies at the heart of all religious and ethical systems.”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wktlwCPDd94

      https://www.facebook.com/CharterforCompassion

  • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

    re “the first, easiest, and most effective way of opening up your capacity for loving others is to really, really listen to people”, here’s what Stephen Colbert had to say on the subject during his commencement address for Northwestern University:

    AFTER I GRADUATED FROM HERE, I MOVED DOWN TO CHICAGO AND DID IMPROV. NOW THERE ARE VERY FEW RULES TO IMPROVISATION, BUT ONE OF THE THINGS I WAS TAUGHT EARLY ON IS THAT YOU ARE NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE SCENE. EVERYBODY ELSE IS. AND IF THEY ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN THE SCENE, YOU WILL NATURALLY PAY ATTENTION TO THEM AND SERVE THEM. BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS YOU’RE IN THE SCENE TOO. SO HOPEFULLY TO THEM YOU’RE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON, AND THEY WILL SERVE YOU. NO ONE IS LEADING, YOU’RE ALL FOLLOWING THE FOLLOWER, SERVING THE SERVANT. YOU CANNOT WIN IMPROV.

    AND LIFE IS AN IMPROVISATION. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT AND YOU ARE MOSTLY JUST MAKING THINGS UP AS YOU GO ALONG.

    AND LIKE IMPROV, YOU CANNOT WIN YOUR LIFE.

    EVEN WHEN IT MIGHT LOOK LIKE YOU’RE WINNING. I HAVE MY OWN SHOW, WHICH I LOVE DOING. FULL OF VERY TALENTED PEOPLE READY TO SERVE ME. AND IT’S GREAT. BUT AT MY BEST, I AM SERVING THEM JUST AS HARD, AND TOGETHER, WE SERVE A COMMON IDEA, IN THIS CASE THE CHARACTER STEPHEN COLBERT, WHO IT’S CLEAR, ISN’T INTERESTED IN SERVING ANYONE. AND A SURE SIGN THAT THINGS ARE GOING WELL IS WHEN NO ONE CAN REALLY REMEMBER WHOSE IDEA WAS WHOSE, OR WHO SHOULD GET CREDIT FOR WHAT JOKES.

    THOUGH NATURALLY I CREDIT FOR ALL OF THEM.

    BUT IF WE SHOULD SERVE OTHERS, AND TOGETHER SERVE SOME COMMON GOAL OR IDEA – FOR ANY ONE YOU, WHAT IS THAT IDEA? AND WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE?

    IN MY EXPERIENCE, YOU WILL TRULY SERVE ONLY WHAT YOU LOVE, BECAUSE, AS THE PROPHET SAYS, SERVICE IS LOVE MADE VISIBLE.

    IF YOU LOVE FRIENDS, YOU WILL SERVE YOUR FRIENDS.

    IF YOU LOVE COMMUNITY, YOU WILL SERVE YOUR COMMUNITY.

    IF YOU LOVE MONEY, YOU WILL SERVE YOUR MONEY.

    AND IF YOU LOVE ONLY YOURSELF, YOU WILL SERVE ONLY YOURSELF. AND YOU WILL HAVE ONLY YOURSELF.

    SO NO MORE WINNING. INSTEAD, TRY TO LOVE OTHERS AND SERVE OTHERS, AND HOPEFULLY FIND THOSE WHO LOVE AND SERVE YOU IN RETURN.

    (sorry for the caps, but I couldn’t find an online transcript w/o ‘em)

    Here’s a video of the full speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6tiaooiIo0

  • textjunkie

    There are times when you’re better at compassion for others and times when you’re not.

  • LSS

    Even Maggie Gallagher and Father No-Wafer-for-you?!

    • LSS

      I’m not saying that just to be snarky. I think a more useful question would have been, how should we choose when to have compassion and when to attack? I mean i guess attacking those guys is compassionate defense of the people THEY attacked, so. … But should we find a place for compassion for them after or during attacking them? and how to do that?

  • Sarah

    I’ve found that compassion isn’t something I “have” so much as something I practice. Sometimes I am VERY good at it, even to those who have done me irreparable damage. For example, there have been the rare days that I have forgiven and prayed – sincerely – for my rapist, for our families, for our wounds, and for the strength when using the word “our” that it would really mean me & …him. us. the wounded. ugh. And in those moments I feel wholly compassionate, complete, and peaceful. I said sometimes, not always, because often I suck at this compassion thing. Oh, I always stop to help, hold the door, pick up what has been dropped, and encourage others but that’s merely kindness, right? I believe true compassion requires a sacrifice of sorts… perhaps its pride, anger, bitterness – at times, even the righteous kinds of those things. Compassion needs a sacrifice of self to be authentic, that’s why it can be so difficult. So, well, I’m not perfect at it, but I practice as much as I can and when I get it right the feeling is one I wish I could hold on to forever, a taste of Divine love.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dwayne.g.mason Dwayne G Mason via Facebook

    Beautiful.


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