Conditional Compassion

 

I’ve noticed that some people seem to think that compassion should be conditional.

They think that if someone got themselves in trouble, we shouldn’t feel compassion for them. Or, even worse, we shouldn’t be kind.

I disagree with that position.

I think compassion is the highest virtue and I strive to feel it toward everyone, regardless of circumstances.

I’ll share some examples.

I’ve heard people say that we shouldn’t feel sorry for drug users who are in jail. They knew they were breaking the law. It didn’t come out of nowhere and we shouldn’t feel bad for them.

Putting aside the discussion of legalization (which I support) for a moment, should we feel compassion for them?

I think we should. They made a mistake (buying from an undercover officer or being in the wrong place at the wrong time) but who doesn’t make mistakes?

Another example is someone who’s in a bad relationship. When someone repeatedly leaves and goes back into the same bad situation, do we stop feeling compassion for them? Do we stop because they make the same mistake over and over and they definitely know better?

No. We never stop.

I don’t stop cultivating compassion. I don’t want to stop to think about whether or not someone is worthy of my compassion. My compassion is too important for that. It needs to be constant and ever present in my life. Compassion is something we can cultivate unconditionally.

Be compassionate. Spread love. Be kind and sprinkle kindness everywhere.

Not that it’s easy, of course. Let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s hard to be compassionate. Sometimes it’s really really hard.

But we can try our best. Because cultivating compassion is best, not only for us but for the world too.

Compassion That Is Boundless

 

 

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher living in Kansas City. He gives online teachings through the Open Heart Project. He also runs the Monday Night Zen Group at the Rime Buddhist Center. His writing has appeared in Lion's Roar, Patheos, Tattooed Buddha, and Elephant Journal.

2 Responses

  1. Unfortunately, this is very true and not only for our compassion culture. Also one can see this in other situations where we should just give without any pre-dispositions or expectations, but most people expect something in return. We need more conditionless compassion. Thank you for your true thoughts.

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