Yes, there is a reason why that word is in quotes. First, though, a definition…
Compassion is actually a compound word, joining “com” (meaning “with” or “together”) and “passion” (meaning “suffering”). So, quite literally, the word means “to suffer with” or “to suffer together”.
Now, most people believe they know what compassion is. When they see someone hurting, they hurt. The most basic of them stop there and call that compassion. Not so much. Compassion moves us to action — to not just hurt from the sidelines, but to get involved in those who are hurting.
Those who “do something about it”… yeah, THEY’RE the ones who are compassionate!
Not so much. And that’s the part that’s destroying America. See, we’re johnny-on-the-spot in pointing out somebody else’s hypocrisy, but we’re kinda slow at recognizing our own, and nowhere is this as evident (to those who are looking for it) than in our politics.
See, I was discussing with some friends the concept of mandated vaccines. My position is that the government has no place to force people to get vaccinated, because that individual’s body is sovereign territory. Though the government does have the authority to protect an unwilling third party from this person’s “stupidity”, it does NOT have the authority to tell this person that they cannot be “stupid”. The subject of public schooling came up, and how unvaccinated students endanger the rest of the population, and that the only way that they could both protect the right of a student to be unvaccinated and the right of the other students is to deny unvaccinated students access to the public school system.
Yep. I totally agree.
I can just imagine the guy I was talking with turning blue and swallowing his tongue. “You’d deny a child an education? Don’t you care?”
My thinking, of course, is that while your body and your property are sovereign territories, as soon as you step out into public, you are in shared territories — places where your sovereign rights end where another person’s sovereign rights begin (thank you, Oliver Wendell Holmes). This is how I can stand against seat belt laws but support drunk driving laws, and support both the denial of vaccination and the denial of access to public education.
“Where’s your compassion? Those seat belts keep people safe. Those vaccines protect innocent children. That homeless person has no food. X person needs Y help. Don’t you care?”
Well, yes. I care deeply. But I don’t care so much that I’m going to deny your rights while I am fighting for theirs. And that’s precisely what’s wrong with America today — far too many people are unwilling to say that when it becomes inconvenient. It’s absolutely hypocritical.
Progressives see the suffering of the homeless, or the indigent, or the oppressed, and the hurt in their heart. Their response is to dig into public funds supplied by mandated taxes and seek to relieve that suffering — to mitigate the consequences of happenstance and poor judgment by forcibly rolling those consequences onto somebody who didn’t sign up for them. They just can’t watch the suffering of someone who is disabled (or simply didn’t maintain their health), or someone who walks into a desert to cross a border illegally, so rather than letting them deal with the consequences of life, and rather than getting personally involved, they bail these people out of those consequences… by rolling those consequences onto shoulders that they presume are strong enough to bear it. Compassionate as heck to the person receiving the aid — not so compassionate to the taxpayer being forced to provide it. Their justification? “They don’t need/deserve compassion as much as X”.
Conservatives are much the same. They see the suffering that drugs and alcohol represent, that prostitution and gambling brings, and institute prohibitions. They see people struggling all over the world, abused by tyrannical regimes, and they send in the military to rescue them. Though their “compassions” are different, their response is similar — to mitigate the consequences of happenstance and poor judgment by legislating against the actions that cause such pain and suffering. They just can’t bear to watch marriages fall apart due to Daddy taking time with a hooker, or babies being raised by drug addicted Mommies, so they make these things illegal. They can’t bear to see a people struggling under the weight of an oppressive government, so they “intervene”. Just like progressives, they cannot bear to witness people unjustly suffering the consequences of life, so they look for ways to prevent those consequences or mitigate them… not by getting involved personally, but by rolling those consequences onto shoulders that they presume are strong enough to bear it. Their justification? “It’s for their own good.”
The heart of this problem is that we as a nation do not understand the fundamental concept of compassion — again, which means to suffer with the suffering. That’s a natural side effect of compassion, a necessary CONSEQUENCE of it. But we don’t like consequences. We love to shift blame, to shirk responsibility, all while claiming credit for a job well done.
Oh, make no mistake about it, none of us want to see somebody else suffering… but we’re rather reluctant to share that suffering ourselves. So our response is either one of two things — to spread the consequences over the taxpayer base, or to prevent the actions that lead to those consequences. That way, no matter who we want to help with whatever suffering, we don’t have to suffer with them.
Makes perfect sense… as long as you don’t dig deep enough to find the hypocrisy. Because when we put this logic into practice, we find that we can’t forcibly spread our compassions to others without denying compassion to those we force our compassions upon. In other words, we can’t relieve suffering without causing suffering to others because we don’t want ourselves to suffer. Ultimately, we’re hypocrites.
That’s not to say that there aren’t bastions of true compassion left in America, of course. Churches. Soup kitchens (often church-funded). Foreign missions. Pro-bono clinics. GoFundMe and the like (for the most part). Charities, true charities, that operate NOT on taxpayer monies but strictly on donation. These are the people that are truly suffering with those who suffer. They get out their and they feel the pain that others feel. They provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and job placement, seeking to relieve burdens without themselves becoming a burden.
And how do we respond to such glowing examples of humanity? We regulate their gifts of food through the Health Department, or permits and business models to (pre-emptively) protect the rights of for-profit industries. We dig into these charities and issue mandates on how they do what they voluntarily do… at the taxpayer’s expense. Rather than us physically share in the suffering of others — to actually work a soup kitchen or personally pick somebody up for a ride to a job interview or take missions trips ourselves to foreign lands to help liberate an oppressed people — we roll it over onto the taxpayer who has no choice but to shoulder part of our “suffering”.
America is DYING of a false sense of compassion, its liberties being sold cheaply because although we know how to “feel” compassionate, we refuse to ACT with compassion.
The single greatest example of true compassion, of course, is the sacrifice of Christ, but I dare say that this example is incomplete without the reality of Hell. See, without Hell, the sacrifice of Christ really has no meaning. “The Cross saves us!” Absolutely… but from what? Unless there are consequences to sin, and unless God is willing to allow us to suffer those consequences, then the Cross means nothing.
Of course, our progressive example would be “God is compassionate, so He will forgive whether we repent or not” — bailing us out of the consequences. Similarly, our conservative example is “God is compassionate, so He will make us to repent” — pre-empting the consequences. Truth is, though, God IS compassionate because He shared in our suffering… and allows us the opportunity to make that choice ourselves, KNOWING the consequences of our rejection and dreading them, but allowing them anyway. Out of love.
See, God hates the consequences of sin, just like we in America hate the consequences of life. But God demonstrates compassion by feeling pain with those who feel pain, and rolling up His sleeves and personally getting involved. We, unfortunately, are reluctant to love the way God loves. We steal liberty for the sake of granting liberty, stealing rights for the sake of granting rights, stealing compassion for the sake of granting compassion. We’re quick to point this out in others, but we turn a blind eye to it in ourselves.
So, plugging this into how “compassion” is destroying America, how do we fix compassion? Quite simply, to do it like God does it — to love like God loves. We get involved. We give of our own time, our own resources, and never expect or demand that somebody does our job for us. Our military is for national defense only — not for sending into a conflict that is not inherently ours. We stop regulating “help”, recognizing that our charities aren’t required to help in the first place. We allow people to make their own choices… and live with the consequences of them. Make no mistake, I’m NOT suggesting that we throw people to the wolves, but when we exercise compassion, we exercise honest compassion, suffering with those who are suffering — never creating suffering so that we don’t have to suffer as much.
Loving how God loves, in our politics just as in our everyday lives.