“Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace”. John O'Donohue

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Truth and Compassion

Oh - and I was so hoping to avoid this subject - but emotions are running strong and it seems entirely apt for Ceibhfhion to comment.

A controversial public figure has died. Some people are having parties. Others are paying tribute. Many are silent. In this social media age, Facebook  is an interesting study in people trying to delicately navigate their way through uncharted territory of declaring  their politics with people with whom they've only ever shared cute pictures of cats, but call friends. This one event has polarised people, unearthed old hurts and resentments, unsurfaced decades old anger, and engendered a lot of judgement, a lot of anger, and a heck of lot of spin.

And I think, how much power did this one person have, to do this to us? Even in death! Even with the person gone. Most frightening is a collaborative silencing of the truth. I feel that acutely. I have chosen for all sorts of reasons, not to voice any of my own opinions, publicly ( this doesn't feel entirely truthful to me and I  will reconcile that with myself later) but what I have done is share some materials that I thought were in the interests of truth and balance written or voiced by people much more articulate and well placed to do so than I am. Even this has raised a couple of  eyebrows. I am aware of being judged. But I think I am OK with that.

  
Compassion is something that I work with a lot, in my personal practice, and in my work with people. And this week, more than most, it seems apt to share it. When we act from compassion we consider all beings as worthy of it. Including those we dislike, including those who have done us wrongs, including those who express opinions we don't like, including those who provoke our anger, hatred, jealousy and judgement . Compassion also allows us to be understanding about others' anger, hatred and judgement of us...

...yes I know, not easy is it?

Why do we do this? It isn't for them. It isn't to release them from the burden of being a victim of our negativity. Do they even know we feel that way? No - it is for ourselves!

In the words of someone whose sense of compassion I trust...

"We recognise compassion in the willingness of someone to imagine himself into the life of another person. We recognise its presence in the withholding of huge negative moralistic judgement. We see compassion in the expression of mercy, in the refusal to label someone with a short-circuiting terminology that condemns her, even though her actions may be awkward. We see compassion in an openness to the greater mystery of the other person. The present situation, deed or misdeed is not the full story of the individual, there is a greater presence behind the deed or the person than society usually acknowledges. Above all, we see the presence of compassion as the vulnerability to be disturbed about awful things that are going on." - John O'Donohue

Compassion does not however, release us from the truth. If anything, it makes it more acutely apparent. Truth and compassion are powerful allies. Indeed, in practising compassion it makes us more open to the truth of our own reality and therefore to the realities of others. We are then able to speak the truth, our own truth, in compassionate recognition of our own needs and in respect of the needs of the other.  This is why people speak out about war and famine and injustice. From the heart of compassion they care enough about other people to want to do something about it. When we act with true compassion it is simply not enough to stay silent.






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