Friday, October 26, 2018

Develop our compassion muscles

In the past year or more, I read the entirety and have returned to reread portions of a wonderful book by widely respected religion scholar Karen Armstrong entitled Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. It's a good read, and I highly recommend it. It is especially timely given the divisions within our country and throughout the globe right now—and given the amount of human misery that exists.

Armstrong mentioned our "compassion fatigue" too, something it's easy to feel when we see so many images of misery daily on TV and online. She says, "We are probably deluged with more images of pain than any previous generation; they are beamed into our homes nightly on the evening news. It is easy to get compassion fatigue and tempting to dismiss these spectacles from our minds, telling ourselves that there is nothing we personally can do and that this misery has nothing to do with us."

However, instead of fatigue and dismissal, she urges, "Instead of steeling ourselves against the intrusion of other people's pain, we should regard our exposure to global suffering as a spiritual opportunity. Make a conscious effort to allow these television images to enter your consciousness and take up residence there. Extend your hospitality to them, and 'make place for the other' in your life. It is a powerful way of developing 'concern for everybody.'"

In that way, we can learn to develop compassion, a badly needed component of human life in these times.

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