“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” Dalai Lama
Compassion is the key to everything, but as I had to learn the hard way, it doesn’t always feel good. I always thought of compassion as being nice to people, seeing their side, walking a mile in their shoes, but at a certain moment in my life I realized it might not mean “being nice” at all.
Being nice is easy. You do the nice thing and walk away feeling good about life the universe and everything — and ones self. But then…
My alcoholic brother.
“You think you’re being compassionate by taking care of him, paying his bills, listening to him on the phone, all of that, but it’s taking a huge toll on you, or why would you be here?”
“But I have to help my brother.”
“Who said? Are you helping him? Is he better because you pay his electric bills? Maybe you’re hurting him.”
I had a whole week to think about that — or hike and run about that.
I got my therapist’s point, and I even saw what I had to do, mechanically. I even saw that my “help” was just helping him NOT recover from alcoholism, and that if I really wanted to help him, I had to stop “helping” him. After that, it wasn’t just me mechanically not “helping” him any more. I had to deal with myself, and that has taken decades. I’ve thought a lot about compassion. Ultimately, compassion is self-care.
We live in a historical moment where compassion is simple. It doesn’t demand therapy or making the excruciating decision to let one’s glorious, talented, beloved little brother go wherever he has to go on his own. It just means we wear a mask when we’re around others to inhibit the spray of germs that issues from our mouths when we speak or breathe. Just this could keep businesses open, could keep people out of hospitals and could save lives. Heroic. But NOoooo. It’s political. Wearing masks inhibits our “freedom” and tramples our rights.
We call people heroes when they pull someone from a burning car wreck, save a child from drowning in a pool, give a kidney to a stranger, but here we are needing government officials to enforce behavior that would make all of us heroes if we just had the compassion to strap a stupid fucking piece of cloth across our nose and mouth.