Our Compassion Deficit

I need your help.

"Love and Compassion are the pillars of world peace." - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Creative Commons – Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Last week, terrorists blew up an airport and the metro in Brussels. A few months ago, some of those same people bombed locations across Paris. Simply typing “San Bernardino” into Google yields 2nd-place result linked to 2015 San Bernardino attack on Wikipedia.

We live in a crazy world where an Uber driver shoots people from his car and where Presidential candidates discuss the size of their genitals in a national debate.

When I try to take all of this in at once, I feel like the world’s about to spin right off its axis.

Human history tells a story of continual war and bloodshed. Peace never seems to last long enough…but something feels different now. Everywhere I look, fear motivates distrust and hateful language. Our lawmakers exist in a state of perpetual gridlock because no one seems willing to find a compromise on anything. We label those with differing opinions as Other and assume anything good for them means something bad for us.

I think all this hatred and strife stems from a fundamental deficit of compassion. Many of us, regardless of race or ethnicity or religion, have lost the ability to feel compassion toward one another.

Google defines compassion as “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” It’s easy to feel sympathy toward someone who lost their house in a fire or who may need help buying school supplies for their kids. Practicing everyday compassion, however, is hard. Everyday compassion means working to understand another person’s motivations and logic when you don’t agree, or may not even like, them.

Compassion is magical. Compassion makes us stronger and more resilient. Compassion protects us. Compassion gives us the strength to understand ourselves through the eyes of others.

Without compassion, it becomes very easy to misplace blame and responsibility, to characterize the opinions of another as hurtful or hateful without fully considering how they arrived there.  We live in an environment where a single opinion makes someone a bad person.

We all want the same fundamental things. We want to live peaceful lives and provide for our kids. We want to learn and live and love.

Unfortunately, we take ourselves further away from those goals every day. Many of us feel isolated and alone, believing that no one could possibly understand what we’re going through. We allow scarcity, rather than abundance, to dominate our thoughts. A scarcity mindset leads to distrust, hoarding and a breakdown of communication.

When we stop talking with one another, we stop understanding. When we stop understanding, we start labeling. When we start labeling, we start judging people based on superficial characteristics, and when that happens, we all lose.

We need more compassion in the world, and the practice starts with you and with me. We need to practice compassion toward those who look differently from us, think differently from us. Too often, we accept our lives for what they are and don’t do the hard work to understand and forgive. To forgive those around us and forgive ourselves.

I started this blog to explore my interests in minimalism and mindfulness, and I’m starting to understand how these practices ladder up into a compassion practice. I’m rededicating my work here to these three principles, and I’d like you to join me.

I invite you to help me create a community of compassion where we can learn from each other how to best live peaceful lives in a crazy world.

Please join here.



P.S. Every week, I try to put compassion into practice on The Lame Joke Podcast. Casey Petersen and I address controversial topics with divergent viewpoints and from a place of mutual respect for each other. Last week, we tackled Gun Control vs. Gun Rights. This week will bring you a great discussion around Climate Change and next week is Gender Identity and Civil Rights.  Subscribe on iTunes and Player.FM to stay up with all the latest shows.