© Raywoo | Dreamstime.com
September 22, 2016
This is my first blog of what I hope will become a series of blogs about how to make the world a better place (for all beings) through the practice of compassion. Because this blog appears on the website of The Charter for Compassion, I thought it prudent to remind readers of “The Golden Rule,” arguably the most ubiquitous principle of compassion found around the world in diverse cultures and religions. In Christianity, Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Mark). In Judaism, there is a classic story of a student who asks a famous rabbi, “What is the meaning of life?” to which the rabbi quickly responds, “Do to others as you would have others do to you. All else is academic. Go study!” Buddha said, “Seeing himself in others, one who is in a state of higher conscience feels compassion for all beings, and holds only positive thoughts about them.” In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu said, “Nothing but good comes to him who loves others as he loves himself.” Clearly, in these religious traditions, love is the great good use we make of one another. These fundamental tenets tell us that the secret to a world of peace, a heaven on earth, can only be achieved through love and compassion for others. Our heart grows hard when we fail to see ourselves in others and to have empathy for their suffering.
So that this isn’t just a list of platitudes, I offer candid advice. In my novel The Gospel of Simon, Jesus cautions Simon of Cyrene: “It is easy to show love and compassion to those who are close to you, to friends and family. The true measure of compassion is how much you love people who can do nothing for you, even unto those who do not look as you look or speak as you speak or believe as you believe—especially to those who do not believe as you believe.” In How to Love, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that we develop our compassion in steps by first learning to have compassion and love for ourselves; then by practicing compassion and love on others whom we have favorable or even neutral feelings. Finally, and hardest of all, we must learn to have compassion and love even for those people who make us suffer the most. As much as ever, we need to practice compassion if we are to heal the world...and ourselves.
-John Smelcer, Ph.D.