Thursday, September 09, 2004

What exactly is compassion?

In my "ripe old age" of 36 years, I have found one immutable consistant. One can tell the life experiences of an individual almost instantaniously by measuring their propensity for judgmentalism and intollerance. You see, when you've stood in that man's shoes (an allusion to an Elvis Presley song (a cover - originally written by Hank Williams) "Men with Broken Hearts" , you tend to take a moment before jumping to conclusions, and those conclusions tend to be far less vindictive and hatefilled than those from individuals who are unexperienced.

The fact is, if you have been in diverse and not-so-favorable situations, you have a level of empathy for those experiencing the same thing. Individuals who have never been accused of a crime are the first to show a lack of sympathy towards those who have been arrested, and they are the first to express that the Scott Petersons of the world are guilty until proven innocent. Many who have been falsly accused and arrested, on the other hand, understand that arrest does not mean conviction... and conviction does not necessarily mean guilt. Therefore, those individuals are more sympathetic and empathetic to persons going through the criminal system.

This is the very essence of compassion.... KNOWING that "there but for the grace of God" go you, and acting in accordance with that understanding.

People who knee jerk to opinions, however, (even when events may have taken place before their birth, or were far from their location) can be immediately tagged - and rightfully so- as individuals who have led blessed and unchallenged lives. In short, they are people who haven't proven their mettle on life's battleground and their resulting ignorance is painfully obvious. Personally, I dismiss their opinions as uninformed and intollerant. I choose to surround myself with individuals who have also seen the worst and the best of life, and who hold the same quiet consideration of facts before judgment that I do. Those who think answers are obvious and plain at first blush are merely judging the peak of a situational iceberg and are ignorant for not checking below the surface.

So choose your friends wisely, and favor those who have age, knowlege, and experience... chances are, they know their stuff. And you can tell who these individuals are because they tend to be quiet, considered, and even tempered. And above all, never judge someone before knowing all the facts... to not do so only shows your ignorance and lack of life experiences .... and lack of life in general.

"You've never walked in that man's shoes or saw things through his eyes Or stood
and watched with helpless hands while the heart inside you dies Some were
paupers, some were kings and some were masters of the arts But in their shame
they're all the same these men with broken hearts"


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