While I very much enjoy writing a daily blog article, I also look forward to the comments I receive after I post it. Yesterday I engaged in a back-and forth online conversation that really forced me to think hard about what I had to say about the practice of compassion and kindness in everyday living.
A young man who read one of my articles specifically objected to and challenged one of Jesus' core teachings about meeting hatred with love.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
My online friend told me that this teaching about "turning the other cheek" and "doing good to those who do you harm" was nothing but a bunch of lofty thoughts. He went on to say that people have to earn his respect and that he only respects people who respect him and is only kind to people who are kind to him. He concluded by saying that when you do good to those who do you harm you will always get hurt, manipulated and abused by your enemy.
I very much appreciated the honesty of what this man had to say to me. In fact I have little doubt that his voice was the voice of many if not most people in today's contemporary culture. Kindness and compassion are hard to come by nowadays, and the notion of blessing those who curse you is a foreign concept in a culture of self-gratification and blind ambition.
The online conversation with that young man yesterday challenged me. Do I really believe, and more over, do I follow the injunction about doing good to those who have done me harm? The more I thought about it, some of the things my online friend was saying made sense to me. In my experience there have been times when my compassion for another was thrown in my face - several occasions where I was used and manipulated by people to whom I showed kindness. I can recall a number of instances when people who were supposedly in need came to me seeking help, food or money, and I later discovered that they were basically "scamming" me.
So is all this stuff about "practicing compassion and doing good even to those who do you harm" little more than a bunch of lofty thoughts?
I pondered this question most of the day yesterday and I did a little menial review of my many life experiences - the people I have known, the things I have done. Yes indeed I have at times seen the underbelly of life. I have encountered plenty of people who were cruel and mean-spirited, self centered and manipulative. I have also encountered many others who were kind, compassionate gentle and forgiving at the very core of their being.
In my own life, I have myself been mean-spirited and held plenty of grudges against enemies. I have also been compassionate, forgiving enemies, doing good to those who did me harm
And when all is said and done, I honesty believe that in the end compassion wins the day.
The "kind" people I have encountered on my life-journey were always the ones who were the happiest in life and usually the most successful. In my own life, my greatest peace always came from my deepest compassion, from respecting the dignity of every human being, My own true happiness always came out of the times when I was able to let go of my grudges and return kindness for injury.
So no, I don't believe these are just a bunch of lofty thoughts. The practice of compassion is very practical - it's a way of life that works.
The Buddha taught:
Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love.
This is an eternal truth.
Yes indeed, this is an eternal truth.