A while back I got into a fight with a friend on Facebook.
She posted something negative about Donald Trump and said that he was mentally ill.
Like my friend, I oppose the policies of Donald Trump and I am horrified by many of his actions and those of his supporters.
So my response might surprise you.
Here is what I said “If that is true, then shouldn’t we treat him with compassion, instead of anger. Isn’t that what mentally ill people deserve? In fact, isn’t that what all people deserve?”.
And here is what she said to me in response: “What about all the people who will be harmed by Donald Trumps policies. Where, she asked, is your compassion for them?”
As if my capacity for compassion was so small.
See here’s the thing about compassion.
We want to reserve it for people that we feel are deserving.
People that we like.
People who support the same things that we support.
People who believe the same things that we believe.
People who treat us the way that we want to be treated.
But my question for you and for my friend is this: what kind of compassion is that really?
Being compassionate towards those that we like is easy.
It demands nothing of us.
We don’t grow from it.
We grow from extending our compassion towards people who challenge us, people who anger us, people who we see as our enemies.
And it doesn’t have to be about political differences.
It could be a friend who betrayed us, the driver who cut us off in traffic, the boss who treats us poorly.
We feel so justified, so righteous in our anger towards people who aren’t like us or who don’t behave the way we want them to behave.
And instead of extending them compassion, we attack them, demean them, label them.
Sometimes directly, sometimes to a 3rd party, sometimes in our thoughts.
As author Jessa Crispin reminds us we do this as a way to feel superior to others and to bolster our own sense of self.
And the end result is that we deny the basic humanity of people who are different than us.
Instead of building bridges, instead of trying to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, the result is more anger, more hate, more division.
And If I’m going to be honest, I have sometimes been part of that hate, part of that anger, part of that division.
So I understand that hate, I understand that anger.
And I want to find a better way.
Anger is easy, compassion is hard.
One demands nothing of us.
The other demands nothing more than the full extension of our hearts and souls to every human being.
Compassion that is only reserved for certain people is no compassion at all.
There’s a quote that you might have seen on Facebook or elsewhere.
It says: Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind.
This is what compassion demands on us.
To recognize that life is hard, that we are all struggling, that we are all fighting some sort of inner battle.
That we all are doing the best we have with what we have been given.
That we are all imperfect humans.
See if other people aren’t worthy of your compassion, then why are you worthy of compassion from other people?
You can’t have it both ways.
Compassion is for everyone or it’s nothing.
Now feeling compassion for others doesn’t mean that you have to welcome everyone into your life or be friends with everyone.
You still have the right to set boundaries on who can be part of your life.
But setting boundaries on who is worthy of your compassion keeps you stuck in anger, dehumanizes the other person, and limits your growth as a human being.
Is that really what you want?
So I leave you with this.
I leave you with an invitation to walk this walk with me.
To honestly examine your life and take a look at who you deny your compassion to.
And to do whatever it takes to start extending your compassion to more people.
Let’s build bridges to everyone, not just those that we feel are deserving…