“The true joy of humankind is in doing that which is most proper to our nature; and the first property of people is to be kindly affected towards them that are of one kind with ourselves.” ~ Marcus Aurelius …
Am I “kindly affected” towards others in my life, especially those who perhaps I feel deserve my anger or condemnation? Sometimes it can be difficult to look beyond the actions of others and recognize the sacredness that exists in all human life, to see that individual as the living breathing being that they are. Every person on this planet is a unique soul, living a similar life experience as I am, dealing with problems that I would have a difficult time dealing with, and it is not up to me to judge or condemn them for their actions.
I recently read an article about a 14-year-old girl who stabbed her 11-year-old stepsister 40 times because she was upset that the sister had hit her the previous night, and that she was not grateful for everything that she does for her. The younger sister ended up dying. I remember feeling a number of different feelings: heartbroken for the younger sister at losing her life at such a young age, sympathy for the family having to deal with the loss of their daughter, and sorrow for the older sister. The thing that really got to me, though, was that after reflecting upon it for a bit, I looked inside myself and there was no anger, there was no hate. The feelings I felt were those that Marcus was speaking of: a pure sadness for the older sister, a recognition of the pain and hurt that this girl must be carrying around inside.
When we try to understand the humanity in others, we find the root of the problem. Throwing someone in jail for stealing something is often like putting a band-aid on skin cancer–it masks the issue and appears like a quick fix, however, that person will still have anger and frustration inside that made them steal in the first place. Jails and laws are necessary and helpful, but we must also strive to look inside the individual and heal the pain and anger.
It is easy for us to condemn others for their wrongdoings, failings, and shortcomings, but that is not compassion. As Eleanor Roosevelt points out below, we as individuals can choose to “walk humbly and deal charitably,” and we will then be contributing in our own small ways to making this world a better place. Even if we are just showing compassion for another human being, or helping someone else to feel better about his or her life. There is good and bad in everyone. And our compassion is much more effective in helping others than our judgment and condemnation.
Show compassion to others today.
Questions to consider:
At times when you have needed others to be non-judgmental and understanding, how has it felt when they have been that way? When they have not?
What does it mean for one to be objective? Is it easy to be so?
How do your reactions to others affect their lives? How do they affect your own?
For further thought:
“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt