A Few Words on Compassion

October 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

You may have seen Monica Lewinsky’s speech by now, recently presented at the Forbes Under 30 Summit. I remember well her being a target of some pretty vicious emotional attack. Depending on your age you will too. It was The Big Scandalous News. Can’t imagine the road she’s traveled back to some degree of “normalcy”, but I’m happy to see her turn it around, use her high profile to aim that experience towards something potentially good. And she does so very genuinely. My applause, Monica; big and loud applause.

And I hope she strikes a chord. She struck a chord with me ~ which is, quite frankly, what the hell is wrong with people? I’ve never understood “meanness”. I understand anger, and I understand wrongful things said and done, I even understand rage. I understand people have this incredibly wide range of emotions that run the gamut from joy to grief, love to hate, forgiveness to resentment, appreciation to bitterness, pride to shame. But unless you’ve got a mental illness as the root cause, being outright rude, being thoughtlessly and openly mean is incomprehensible to me.

I also understand that for some reason, kids in particular can be very mean to one another. There’ve always been mean kids, mean people, mean situations. Not that that’s “okay”, it just “is”. But the continuing rise in cyber-bullying brings all this to a whole new and deeply disturbing level, because it can be anonymous or feel “safely barricaded”. The culprits hawk their slurs behind the closed doors of digital gadgets and screen names – like a video game, it’s almost like it’s not real. But it’s real, alright, and I simply can’t get my head around this growing culture of “mean.” This sort of human indifference. The opposite of compassion.

(And it’s not just kids. Hello grown-ups. Hello news outlets. What’s wrong here? A need to be right? Feel powerful? Be the first to know? A mass gossip gene?)

In the old days it hurt well enough if someone picked on the fat kid, or the slow kid, or the geeky boy the clumsy girl. I’m not sure it if was a good or a bad thing to know who your taunter was, but maybe you had it out in the playground, or maybe you grew up to be a wild success and it no longer mattered. But you knew who to steer clear of. And more than likely, the person doing the damage knew it was wrong. I have to wonder, are we cultivating a society where right and wrong aren’t recognized? Who’s teaching what to whom these days?

Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but names will never hurt me. We were taught this growing up, and there’s truth there. But it can hurt, some people more than others, and while I think we need to develop self-esteem and thicker skins and not shrivel into a ball when someone is less than kind, those tools aren’t always built-in, they take time.

Think before you speak. Think before you act. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Pretty darn simple.



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