The practice of compassion

Jul 9, 2018

Where did we lose the idea that freedom of speech is the right to have our speech protected, no matter what our opinion might be? That does not, however, include the right to libel, slander, and now bully people into submission. It does not include a license to abuse someone—meaning to call names or threaten harm or talk or harass those who are different than we are. Physically, socially, or politically.

Obviously, given the increase in the amount of outright lies or veiled insults in the public airways now, the threat of the law does not much restrain an anonymous population, let alone educate it to a more civilized kind of communication.

But now we have struck a new low. A gutter talk so bad that we don’t want children even to watch the news. Now it’s our national leaders who are leading the pack. The valiant types who purport to be the role models of the country.

I am in Europe as I write this, where the attitude about what they are seeing of us on television is clear but said in far more elegant, more honest, more caring language than ours for one another. They wonder what is happening to those decent rank and file citizens, real Christians, genuine intellectuals, committed activists, genuine patriots who are embarrassed by their own political parties.

And we, for our part, ask ourselves what has happened to us. How has compassion—the ability to really feel for the other, to care for the others as well as ourselves, to be different than others but never destructive of others—disappeared?

​So now we’re split as a country, as a body politic, as a generation. Why? Because we ignored this malignancy and let it spread. Has it helped us expand ourselves? Has it helped us to make our points any better, any more effectively? Has it brought us to the point of effective political discourse? Has it made us any happier? The Dalai Lama’s statement says it all: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

From where I stand, it seems to me that to be compassionate in this environment, we can’t say “It’s awful,” anymore. We need to say, “It stops here. In front of me. Always.”

—excerpted from We Are All One by Joan Chittister (23rd Publications)

We Are All One by Joan Chittister

We Are All One

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