“Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness.”
Walter Brueggeman (The Prophetic Imagination)
Compassion is a mammalian emotion. If you own a dog or cat, you know that when one of them is hurt, or sick, or young and mewling, the others go to see what they can do to comfort. I had a dog named Whiskers who allowed two kittens to cuddle up against his belly to sleep, just as though he were their mother. We've all watched the sweet videos of Koko, the gorilla, and the kitten she loved, and named “All Ball.” Mammals are capable of love, care, and compassion for other creatures, no matter what species they may be.
We also care when we witness injustice to others. The children of Syria comes to mind; and watching the horror of their being caught up in a war they neither understand nor can escape. We have deep remorse and compassion for cultures that have been decimated by colonialism, like our own Native American tribes. We carry enduring guilt for what our forebears did to black and brown people, and for our own unacknowledged bias and ignorance. Sometimes, compassion weighs us down, and we have to shut down for a while. I'm not excusing any of these things, since it is the very weight of our compassion that convicts us. We know the hurt is not going away, and that we must take it seriously.
One of the reasons for the deep compassion fatigue gripping the world right now is that no one seems to have answers. Many groups are making attempts to right the wrongs of society, but some of those wrongs require that we all work together. That seems to be the highest hurdle for us as a species. Until we can agree to come together to solve the problems that exist, they will continue to haunt us and drag us down. Finding ways to heal the hurt will take all of us working together, and the first step in that process is admitting that inflicting harm is not the normal state of events, but is unacceptable in all human interactions. From bullying on the playground, to name calling in our halls of power and on our streets, we must reinstate compassion as the normal and expected means of communication.
In the Spirit,