Who’s TRULY being compassionate?
As a pagan, I am sometimes surprised when I hear a generic Christian admonish an evangelical faith group for their ‘so-called’ acts of compassion. It makes me ask myself: to what extent can we as a human race call ourselves compassionate?
The truest forms of compassion can be defined through too many variables, words, interpretations, and means of thought processes. What compassion is to one person, another person will undoubtedly have a completely different understanding. Who’s to say which person is right? While we, as humanity, do have a global concept of moral and ethical values, a detached person remains in the position to let each person walk his or her own path. From there, this person can best determine whether or not it is compassionate to speak up against a moral issue, or walk away from the discussion.
We have too many people telling others what they need to do with their life. The way they are living is “not correct.” Not appropriate. Too demeaning, too severe, too loose, too demanding, too soft. For an evangelical group to have a requirement that a person needing services (acts of compassion) must meet before said group will extend a helping hand could be considered a “restrictive” act of compassion, at best. However — as much as I hate to admit it — to dismiss the group simply because of that ‘requirement’ is simply not being compassionate towards them.
What I would like to put to you, dear reader, is the possibility of shifting into another thought process towards other faiths: especially those that appear to be hateful, disrespectful, and intolerant. (Don’t forget: where we put our focus, our attention, more than likely, will become our reality.)
Take, for example, the Interfaith Lectures series Michelle Voss-Roberts facilitated earlier this year. A professor at Wake Forest University, she is of the Christian variety, but has taken great effort to not only learn about Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, but she went so far to study these faiths to the extent she could teach a group of 240 people about each tradition. This to me is an outstanding, inspiring notion of what it truly means to be interfaith. One must learn about another tradition, so much so, that one can go forth into her community to teach about a faith that is not her own. She shared her knowledge of both angles of each tradition – the things she liked about each, as well as those she didn’t like. She taught us in a way that was purely academic, purely scientific; a rational outlook: This is what Hinduism is. This is what Islam is. This is what Buddhism is. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now, I’m not saying we all can or must, go forth with a similar detached perspective about other faiths. Trust me, I know how difficult a concept this must seem. But if we, each of us, could take a moment, step back in to our own faith and be comforted with our own God/Goddess/gods/goddesses/no-gods, feeling that pure contentment that comes from doing such, perhaps this will lessen the need to “push back” against those other faiths that seem to have absolutely no correlation with our own.
One tradition teaches that there has to be a balance on the scales of human experience: good and bad, positive and negative, just-unjust. The Yin and Yang of things. Other teachings state that we can’t know the truth of the good, unless we have experienced the ‘bad.’ What I propose is an acknowledgment that we have experienced the ‘bad.’ Now it is time to move forward with our focus on the ‘good.’ And let the bounty multiply. Compassion is a ‘good’ thing, yes? Especially towards our ‘enemies’. Remember, compassion always wins. Somehow, someway. But to do so, it must start with you.