Monday, December 22, 2014

Nurturing compassion

Last Friday I wrote about vulnerability and strength. After I wrote that blog, I discovered some wise words in one of my favorite inspirational books.

In My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging, Rachel Naomi Remen writes, "In attending to our own capacity to suffer, we can uncover a simple and profound connection between our own vulnerability and the vulnerability in all others.

"Ours is not a culture that respects the sick or the old or the vulnerable. We strive for independence, competence, and mastery. In embracing such frontier values we may become intolerant of human wholeness, contemptuous of anything in ourselves and in others that has needs or is capable of suffering. The denial of a common vulnerability is the ultimate barrier to compassion."

Ah, yes—a "barrier to compassion." So it is. When we can get in touch with all the ways in which we are vulnerable and get in touch with our fears, our pain, our weaknesses, our woundings, then we know how much we need others. We know how much we long for a kind word, a helping hand, a hug, the care of others. We know that we can provide that for others as well. And for ourselves.

Compassion and self-compassion. Those are sorely needed in our world today. And we get there by admitting our vulnerability. We do need each other. It truly takes a village to raise each one of us.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed! I just finished reading "Just Mercy" by Bryan Stevenson, with many stories about his work with prisoners on death row, many of whom had been "framed." Near the end of his book, he spoke of "brokenness," and his own, in particular. He called our brokenness "the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion." I like that! But I don't think we do very well at accepting that in ourselves. Yet, I think that's so right.