For most of my life I've had a hot button around unfairness. Just about the only time I get angry or resentful is when I think I've been "unfaired against". For example, I keep my end of a bargain and you don't keep your end. I show up on time and you are late. I lend you money and you don't pay me back. You say you'll call me back and you don't call. I've worked hard to be rid of this issue but it still gets me from time to time. It's probably related to fear of some kind. I'll keep working on it. That's usually part of the solution for me when I have an issue - to work on it.
That hasn't been the case with compassion. I haven't been working on it. Compassion is one of those things I'm usually decent about. That's especially when I'm feeling it for an issue distant from me. Like famine in Africa, or homelessness in the U.S., or wrongful imprisonment. I may send money to a cause for which I feel compassion - like Doctors Without Borders or Habitat for Humanity or Kiva. I may give my time for a cause. I am a volunteer mediator partly because I feel compassion for people in conflict.
What I'm noticing recently is that I'm beginning to feel compassion for people in conflicts that are close to me or affect me directly. Like the neighbor who is operating a metal and tire recycling business from his driveway, which is illegal in our city. People coming and going, hammering at night, stacks of tires on the lawn. I was thinking about calling the police. Then I found out the police found a stolen vehicle in that same driveway and various authorities have been called. I don't like illegal activity in my neighborhood but I feel compassion for the person who has found no other way to make a living - and for his family.
Or a business friend of mine with a flair for drama who has lost employees - most recently her bookkeeper - partly because of the drama. I'm watching this happen. I feel compassion for both her and the bookkeeper.
Or a friend of a friend who took a couple of our autographed books to our outfitter in Kenya. (The friend of a friend, Rick, is also a friend of the outfitter, Steve.) I'd made arrangements for Steve to pay Rick when the books arrived. Rick had forgotten he knew the books were being purchased by Steve instead of being given as gifts by me. Rick wrote me a nasty email late one night, accusing me of using him for transport to save postage and then expecting his friend Steve to have to pay for the books. I responded with compassion, sending him copies of conversations I'd had with Steve - and with him - before the books went to Kenya. I got an abject apology the next morning. I wasn't mad at Rick. I felt compassion for him, that a misunderstanding and a forgetting had caused him such anger and distress.
There was a time when events like this would have resulted in righteous indignation or resentment on my part. For some reason, that isn't happening much any more. What I especially like is that increased compassion hasn't been a goal of mine. I haven't been working on it. It has just happened. Isn't that great?
There's something about compassion that makes me feel more like a grownup.
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