C is for Compassion


Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

Mother Teresa

Acts of compassion make us think of people like Mother Theresa, William Wilberforce, Jesus. People known for their good deeds that improved the social conditions of people experiencing poverty, slavery and social exclusion respectively. If we look at compassion in the context of social justice we talk about people like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King – ordinary men doing extraordinary things.

Mother Theresa, William Wilberforce and Jesus were less political figures than Gandhi, Mandela and King but they all held humanity in respect.  The first group understood the social circumstances needed radical intervention to improve life for individuals and they did this by their acts of kindness, doing what they could where they were for whomever they came in contact with.  On the other hand Gandhi, Mandela and King were vocal advocates who fought for the rights of people in harsh and unjust circumstances by using strategies more aligned with political debate. Exercising compassion for the plight of population groups they upheld the sanctity of human life and strode tirelessly towards closing the gap of discrimination and injustice.

Please don’t get caught up in thinking that the job is too big for you, or that it is someone’s task to step up and help those in need who cannot lift themselves.  It is everyone’s responsibility to do what we can for those we ‘touch’ each day.  In the words of Gandhi:

In a gentle way you can shake the world

Every day we have the opportunity to show compassion to others whether it is to someone we know or a stranger; our compassion moves us to acts of kindness that has no agenda nor seeks reward. We simply reach out because our heart is touched by another’s need.  Each one of us can shake the world around us by our gentle acts of kindness and compassion.

Usually, our concept of compassion or love refers to the feeling of closeness we have with our friends and loved ones.  Sometimes compassion also carries a sense of pity.  This is wrong.  Any love or compassion which entails looking down on the other is not genuine compassion.  To be genuine compassion must be based on respect for the other, and on the realisation that others have the right to be happy and overcome suffering, just as much as you.  On this basis, since you can see that others are suffering, you develop a genuine sense of concern for them.

Dalai Lama


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