Clearing a Space for Reflection
But why should Buddha's words, coined so many centuries ago, matter to us in the here and now? And how are they related to power?
The answer is simple: Utilizing compassion, whether on behalf of oneself or another, enables the practitioner to exercise the kind of power that can restore harmonious balance to chaotic situations. At the different stages of recognition, reflection, and redress, practicing compassion provides potentially world-saving opportunities which otherwise likely would not exist. Ignoring its usefulness as a viable tool, valid option, or significant resource is more likely to foster corruption from the forms of addictive mania that guarantee further disorganization.
In conflicts ranging from those in private homes and local neighborhoods, to disruptions on the national and global levels, numerous individuals and factions have become convinced they are powerful enough to ignore everyone else. In the absence of regard for the perspectives or values of those different from one's own, the likelihood of violent confrontations increases. These clashes manifest all over the world as destructions of human life and the natural environments that sustain all life, human and otherwise. How does a leader or follower stop the carnage long enough to reestablish civility?
Claiming compassion for oneself clears a mental space for reflection where choices and responses are not driven by guilt, fear, rage, or despair. A regrettable action first considered justified can be reexamined and identified as a single option which, in retrospect, was not necessarily the best. This realization in itself provides the opportunity and restores the possibility of making good on an intention that likely was never meant to cause irreparable devastation in the first place.
To Choose or Not to Choose Compassion: The Politician
Not to go overboard on politics but: by nearly every objective account the "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States" executive order, commonly referred to as the #TravelBan or #MuslimBan, could have been much better designed and implemented than it was. The acknowledged absence of extended considerations created a trauma-filled international backlash.
The deeper reflection that appears to have been omitted by responsible leadership took the externalized form of both peaceful and violent protests. A leader allowing compassion for himself or herself in such a scenario would have been able to weigh the possibility that a serious error had been made and then, minus fear, self-condemnation, or any need to "save face," committed to "fixing the problem." But without the conscious strategic application of compassion for self or others, deterioration continued.
To Choose or Not to Choose Compassion: The Singer
For a very different kind of example, consider the choice singer-songwriter Adele made when awarded the 2017 Grammy for album of the Year. That she, a white British woman, had already won two of the major coveted awards over singer-songwriter Beyoncé, an African-American woman, and was now receiving a third was to her unacceptable. In an effort to correct what she felt was an injustice, she broke the award in half, dedicating part of it to Beyoncé and reserving the other to honor her own voice.
Adele's decision did demonstrate more than compassion for both a fellow recording artist and herself while also going a lot further. It took into account millions of African Africans who have long expressed sensitivity regarding diversity issues where major entertainment award shows are concerned. Instead of basking in the limelight of a "personal victory" and possibly later suffering excruciating guilt over it, Adele chose to exercise personal power to make a compassionate and healing difference.
Tapping reserves of under-utilized compassion for oneself or another establishes a foundation for communication and shared values. These in turn increase empowerment for the individual at the same time that they magnify chances for reconciliation between presumed opposing interests. The compassion extended to oneself becomes available for gifting to fellow human beings in a world unquestionably in need of its healing balm.