What is compassion?
According to Dictionary.Com
[box] Compassion: feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.[/box]
What is misfortune?
According to Dictionary.Com
[box] Misfortune: adverse fortune; bad luck.[/box]
What is arrogance?
According to Dictionary.Com
[box] Arrogance: offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.[/box]
How are these terms related?
Well, they are all related by a common thread, interlocked like the cornrows of our society.
We are often taught that in order to be a ‘good’ person we need to be compassionate toward others. In other words we need to feel sorry for people who experience misfortune. Misfortune is actually an abstract term that is ruled by our personal definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ I might believe I was a victim of misfortune if I received a box of chocolates when I am allergic to them while the next person would consider that box of chocolate a perfectly ideal gift.
In considering the aforementioned example, how could I accurately determine what to feel compassion for?
A woman I met broke her back, causing her to have to retire early and apply for disability. Her job threw her a farewell party and all commented on her misfortune, feeling COMPASSION for their old friend.
What did the woman do?
She rested. She healed some. She moved to Los Angeles to try her hand at an acting career, now drives a drop top Mercedes and lives the life of leisure she has always dreamt of.
There is a man sleeping on the park bench. His clothes are filthy. He is all alone. A quick glimpse in his direction and your heart strings have been pulled. You walk over to him, tuck a $20 bill into his hand and walk away, feeling satisfied.
The man awakens and notices the money you placed in his hand. He shakes his head, stands up and walks over to his car, heading home after a long day at the construction site nearby.
A woman has just gotten divorced, her husband won custody of the children and she is left all alone. How unfortunate! Those children will suffer without Mommy won’t they? Mom will never have a real, satisfying life without her children.
Or will they? What happens? Dad raises his children on his own and the children prosper because they are with the parent who can best care for them. They see their Mom regularly and they see a transformation in her as well because she is happier now that she is out of the relationship that held her back from loving who she was.
You pass by a rough neighborhood and see children playing outside of a home that you believe should be condemned. The children aren’t wearing shoes. They don’t have haircuts. They swat flies under the afternoon sun. You feel so sad for them, wondering where their bicycles are and how they must hate life so much without Ipads and touch screen phones. You drive home feeling compassion for the children, thanking your lucky stars that you are not them. You keep driving until you reach your gated complex. You arrive home and check your mail and walk into your plush apartment. You sit down on your bed, exhausted after having to be yelled at by your boss all day. You dream of freedom. You dream of simplicity. But you can’t have that because you have a lifestyle to maintain. You think about those children you saw and you feel better. You feel compassion for them.
On the other side of town those children stand up from playing in the front yard of their nearly dilapidated home. They rush out front because they see their Dad walking toward them. They run to him and give him kisses and he wipes the mud from their foreheads. He ushers them inside, leads them into the restroom and scrubs their hands and faces as they giggle. He asks them to sit down because he has a surprise for them. He produces a brown bag from his satchel and opens it.
Sparklers. The children are delighted beyond comprehension. In just an hour once the sun is gone they can go outside and play with their treat. The sparklers cost dad a dollar but the gift means much more than any IPad could ever mean. These children are loved, well fed and given so much attention that they feel rich. The sparklers will spark and fade away but the memory of Dad’s evening surprise never will.
Why is Compassion Arrogance?
How could it not be? To be compassionate towards someone else’s situation means that we are placing a value judgment on what their life should be. Who are we to make that type of judgement call? How superior are we to look at someone else’s life and think they are suffering simply because they are not living according to our standards? Having compassion for someone is to feel sorry for them because their life is not like ours.
If you dare to look down on someone and feel sorry for them because they are not like you or are facing a situation you would not know how to deal with, you are arrogant.
Instead, marvel at the magic of life and its ability to create individual universes for every person that breathes. There is no set marker for how life should be lived and every individual has a choice for how they react to the situations that they have either created or been presented with. No person is ever at a complete loss. Those presenting themselves as unfortunate are doing so to create pity in order to gain something (either financially or help) from your fear of going through what they are going through.
Don’t be so arrogant as to believe that your life and lifestyle are superior to others. If you do you are no better than the clan who arrived in the US and “discovered” it.
Observe people and their situations and be less inclined to judge or feel pity. While you are working your 9 to 5 happily, paying your bills on time and following your routine, the very person you pity for having none of those things, may in fact feel compassion for YOU.