This is a question I’m currently struggling with. Your help would be very much appreciated.
A few months ago, I signed on to the Charter for Compassion.
The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national differences. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world.
I try to be a compassionate person. I genuinely believe in the Golden Rule. And I accept that people, myself included, arent’ always at their best and sometimes need to be cut a little slack.
I’ve done a lot of work in conflict resolution and relationship-building, attempting to promote ideas, processes and values that respect all parties. I teach an approach to leadership that’s based on the idea that real leadership is as much about supporting others to lead as it is to having a vision for the future. It’s an approach that can’t succeed without compassion. I play an active role in my union, doing my best to help others when they run into trouble at work.
I try to take a breath, step back, when I’m feeling annoyed or impatient. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. But overall, I like to think I have a fairly deep well to draw on. Until recently. An event in Sweetie’s and my life has found me having to dig really deep… and so far, I’m not having much luck.
Does compassion mean one shouldn’t be held accountable for something entirely avoidable? Something that has turned one’s life upside down? Caused considerable pain? Can you be compassionate but still demand accountability? Or is accountability just a nicer word for revenge?
Does compassion equal forgiveness? Can one be compassionate without forgiving?
How does one let go of anger enough to make room for compassion?
I’ve read a number of teachings in recent years of the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh. They’ve brought me a lot of peace. I’ve learned to meditate. To embrace, as best I can, mindful living. That’s not to say there aren’t times when I get wound up about something. But I’m better at breathing and letting go.
So I suspect they would tell me to accept what is. To look for the positive. To breathe. To let go. To repeat my daily mantra, the one that ends with vowing to view all beings with eyes of compassion.
Letting go gives us freedom.
And freedom is the only condition for happiness.
–Thich Nhat Hanh–
I’m trying. I really am.
- Assignment Compassion: Join Adrian Grenier to tell your story on video (ted.com)
- 13 Ways of Looking at Compassion (psychologytoday.com)
- On the 12 steps to a compassionate life: Q&A with Karen Armstrong (ted.com)