Take a moment please to consider what the following quote attributed to Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama, 563-483 B.C.E.) means to you:
"You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."
The words "love and affection" are often translated from various dialects of India (most notably Pali) as compassion. If you accept as true that you deserve compassion as much as anyone else, then in what way do you see it as truth? How each of us answer this question can open untapped reserves of compassion abundant enough to rectify mounting social and political turbulence in the world or it can, potentially, add to the unsettling turmoil.
Do you interpret Buddha's words to mean it is acceptable to spend days wallowing in self-pity when circumstances are not in your favor? Or do you take them as permission to forgive yourself for any perceived failings or shortcomings in order to extend similar considerations to fellow human beings? In other words: what practical value do you place upon the ability to show yourself compassion?
In all of the above-suggested scenarios, compassion is one of the most extraordinary gifts an individual can present herself or himself for two empowering reasons. The first is because it immediately reshapes the dynamics of potential contained within a given moment: what may have been seen as a dead end suddenly becomes an open road. The second reason is because it provides the invaluable opportunity to accept mistakes, correct them, and start over again. That bit of mindfulness possibly never has been more important to embrace than in the current historical era.
The Intoxicating Rush of Privileged Authority
We have begun a new chapter in our human story where many people with diverse needs, cultural inclinations, values, dreams, preferences, hopes, and fears are learning for the first time how to access and exercise new levels of power. Whether that is bad or good depends on how the power is used. This is frightfully evident from the news headlines and images filling the screens of TVS and mobile devices.
The schism between political parties in America has become nearly as tense as the one that prompted the country's Civil War. Conflicts in the Middle East generate the same impact as mass genocide. Nations increasingly openly build up nuclear armaments. And common everyday people around the world raise their voices, fists, signs, and smart phones to declare rejection of the toxic disorder shredding to pieces their sanity and lives.
Leaders and followers all possess forms of technologized 21st-century power that has never before been possible. In such a mixed bag of world views and life experiences, some measure of chaos is unavoidable. No matter the status of the one who wields it, power is a very big word. With it comes monumental responsibilities demanding the use of as much consciously strategic wisdom as possible when employed.
It has, however, a tendency to distort human beings' sense of authority and propriety. Power can seduce one's sense of self-discipline and inflate the ego to a point where a person may become confused by the nature of stewardship that comes with occupying an assigned office. Authority granted for the purpose of serving the greater common good may then be mistaken for something closer to omnipotence indulged without accountability to anyone. The formerly-humble become the suddenly-imperious. Serious mistakes are almost impossible to avoid under the influence of such an intoxicating rush of privileged authority.
After the damage occurs, denial and self-condemnation can either make the problem worse, or compassion and forgiveness can begin paving the way toward correction and reconciliation.