Sunday, October 13, 2013

There's something about compassion

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.

11 comments:

DJan said...

This is a wonderful conversation, Linda. I think it will be fun to consider this when we are together. Very interesting! :-)

#1Nana said...

Hummm, so why the change? I know that I have mellowed with age, but I don't know that I'd label it more compassionate. Why do you think it has happened to you?

Terra said...

Compassion is a HUGE virtue and one to be nurtured so it is lovely to see it growing.

Olga said...

There is a certain wisdom that comes with life experiences (sometimes called age) if we take the time to examine our place in the world and our relationships to others. I am quite sure that your training and experience in mediation has informed your compassion a great deal as well.

Out on the prairie said...

Compasson sometimes comes in silence, allowing both sides time to gather thoughts.

The Odd Essay said...

I wonder how many people we think are grouchy old farts but they show compassion for others in ways we never see as they are silent about their deeds?

Arkansas Patti said...

I do believe we mellow with age and experience. We have learned either through our own trials or those of our families and friends that nothing is black or white. There are circumstances. I think it is a good thing and hope you enjoy your enhanced state of compassion. It really is better on the blood pressure.

Friko said...

Sounds like you have learned to relax. Compassion is when you see both sides and feel empathy for those who don’t live as you do.

It’s a wonderful character trait. It makes the compassionate one into a person with whom everybody
can get along.

rosaria williams said...

Ah, we're all slowly maturing; the good part of getting old.

Dee said...

Dear Linda, I found this posting of yours very thought-provoking. I'm not sure how compassion does bud and blossom in us. It has something to do, I think, with the ability to feel empathetic. To walk in the other person's shoes for a moment in time and come to understand his or her perspective. You've made me think. Thank you. Peace.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Linda, I am just getting caught up on your posts and this one really speaks to me, as well. I have found myself in a similar place, understanding that each of us is working out our lives the best we can with the circumstances are are in and who we seem to be as people. It has made me much more compassionate, as well, and yes, I feel more like a grown up ... finally. :)