Compassion, the Difficult Emotion

compassionAlamyI grew up being ostracized everywhere I went. I was picked on and bullied for being different from the norm, often cast aside like a used dish rag. Not only did this happen in the home but also in the schools and street. There’s no way, I thought, I was meant to live a strong, healthy life. Not only did I think I was going to die early but, at times, I thought about bringing it on just to get it out of the way. How did I make it to 18? 21? 30? At 30 I really, really tried to take myself out of this world. Drugs and alcohol had taken its inevitable toll and I thought it was time to say sayonara. Well, for my troubles I received 2 full months in a psych hospital. I did write a collection of fairy tales while I healed so I guess it was a bit of a productive stay. The torture didn’t end, though. As long as I worked at a job I despised, just to pay the rent, my only panacea remained drugs and alcohol. How was someone like me supposed to learn compassion? Why should I have compassion when, as far as I was concerned, I was born to die or live a miserable life?

I look around now and see that conditions in life are no different than in Mahavir’s time. People were deceitful and backstabbing then as they are now. The rich oppressed the poor. Lands were conquered by violent raiders as they are now. Mankind’s atrocities to one another was way beyond comprehensible, yet there it was, signaling its presence like a flag flapping in the breeze just like it is now. But here I am, struggling to apply compassion for my fellow man. This is very hard to me; really, it seems impossible. I’m supposed to forgive you if you cut off someone’s head and throw those pictures on the internet? How am I supposed to forgive you if your government oppresses your people and cut off their tongues if they dare to speak up for themselves? I wonder where the limits of compassion ends and vengeance begins? I supposed I’m not supposed to harbor vengeful thoughts because they can eat me up from inside. I guess that’s what meditation is all about – having a closer examination of your own feelings and behavior. Right now I’m struggling with compassion and know I’m just a work in progress. Since, like they say, practice makes perfect, all I can do is practice small acts of compassion here and there and, in the end, hope that matters.