Wednesday Wiseness: I don’t do Compassion. I only FAKE it.

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Compassion is overrated.

Not because it doesn’t deserve its high position in the virtue ladder. It’s a pure emotion that begins where kindness and empathy end. It is stronger, more powerful, almost magical.

Not because we lecture our children about it or because we imagine it to be the solution to all problems.

But because the compassion we show as creatures of a supposed heart and soul is FAKE. We know no compassion. We feel no compassion. We only know how to FAKE it.

Are the wheels in my head rounding up one delusion after another? Or does this really bear any weight? Your call. But my mind is made.

The world is dying as we know it. Scientists proved that many years ago. Prophets and philosophers predicted this tortuous end as they played chess with spirituality and fate, way before ‘many-years-ago’. The decay was never limited to places of nature (global warming, deforestation, extinction, and pollution). It was supposed to be much worse. This is a sore truth humanity swallows every day.

People let hate take over. They turned on each other almost as soon they were created and set free. To do what? Create havoc and pretend to feel bad about it. And then, set themselves on a perpetual repeat mode of destruction and hypocrisy. So where does compassion figure in all of this? It doesn’t. It is a unicorn, an apparition, almost a myth.

And now, the bigger question. Why fake it? The righteous surely don’t need to. They came as Prophets, as Saints and as blue moons in our universe. They are the real deal, with no need to prove anything to anyone. And the self-righteous? One too many, like  you and me. The worst of the lot.

People like you and me; who think they know how it feels to sleep on the streets; who think they know how it feels to be hungry and thirsty and to actually die from both.

People like you and me; who think they know how a mother feels when her six-year-old daughter is raped and left to rot; who think they know how a terminally depressed person feels trapped in the darkest corners of an unending alley they call the mind.

People like you and me; who think they know how a person suffering from cancer or HIV feels; who think they know how parents feel when burying their flesh and blood.

People like you and me; who think they know how loss of hope feels for a person who had nothing else; who think they know how it feels to be a child and never see the inside of a classroom; who think they know how it feels to see your entire family murdered in front of you.

People like you and me, who think they know compassion. But we don’t. We never did.

You want to know how we get away with it every single time? We cry a redundant tear, sing a morose tune, crumple our eyebrows and make the perfect sad face. We fill up our Facebook and twitter pages with tragic, flowery language thinking we have something in common with the sufferers. In return, we fill up with pocket loads of an emotional drug called compassion. A feeling designed to make us feel better about ourselves. A false assurance that we aren’t bad people; we have hearts that do feel for others.

Another reason we are so good at forgetting is because we know there is plenty more from where it all came from. Someone will always be dying or dead. Someone will always be unwell or unhappy. Someone will always be caged in hell. While spectators like you and me, will stare out with popcorns in our hands and a box of Kleenex for the tears we are all so good at spurting. Only, it is never a movie that we are watching. It is real life. They are real people. The only thing unreal here is our compassion.

And eventually, we move on.  We go on about our lame busy lives. Our regular transmission resumes as newer, brighter shades paint the grey away. Tears melt away and empty tunes thud loudly on our hearts. Facebook profile pictures and messages get back to normal. The final virtual signal that it’s time to move on. Because after all, we live only once. Why waste it on worrying for others? We already have a lot on our plates. You and I.

Worries? Oh there are plenty. Like how the heating in your house was acting up all winter. Or how you can’t afford to buy a new dress this summer. Or how you can’t get yourself to exercise. Or how you just can’t quit smoking. Or how you have such crazy working hours. Or how you haven’t done anything ‘fun’ in so long. Or how you have never been to Europe. Or how you can never fulfill your new year’s resolutions . Or how your toddler drives you up the wall. Or how you missed the buss. Or how you got a speeding ticket. Or how your kitchen helper didn’t show up today. Or how you didn’t ace your exam. Or how nobody noticed your new haircut.

So yes. Don’t tell me you have compassion, if you can’t feel exactly the same way as the people suffering in front of you. Don’t tell me you have compassion, if you can’t step away from your life and offer help, in any way possible. Don’t tell me you have compassion if you can’t pray for others with the same intensity and humility as you would for yourself. Don’t tell me you have compassion, if you can sleep at night knowing how profusely the world bleeds.

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And if you catch me telling this lie, pinch me real hard. For I don’t do compassion. I only fake it.

All’s not lost. But it is certainly not how we make it out to be. We might have a kind streak in us. We might be caring towards certain people, certain issues, at certain times. But true compassion? In the words of Daniel Goleman,

“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain, but also being moved to help relieve it.”

I won’t be convinced.

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15 thoughts on “Wednesday Wiseness: I don’t do Compassion. I only FAKE it.

  1. I feel you are confusing compassion with empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others where compassion is a feeling of pity, sadness and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of people. I think it would be a really sad world without compassion. Without compassion their would be no humanity.

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    1. Umm, no not really. I had a feeling some would think that. But I believe compassion is the strongest emotion, even more so than empathy. But we all have our opinion:). And this outrage is directed at myself, and then at humanity at large. I think that we are all too selfish, too self-absorbed to ever be truly compassionate, or even empathetic for that matter. Of course there is kindness, there is love. But never to the extent that is required for humanity to flourish. We are all just, limping through.

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  2. I respectfully disagree. Seeing one tragic story after another being covered by the front pages of all international news or the continuing plight of hundreds of millions of people in poverty-stricken communities or war zones – we can’t help but question humanity in general and the lack of ‘compassion’. I think the reason we ‘move on’ is not because our compassion diminishes over time but because if don’t move on, we will suffocate! I don’t think it’s a conscious choice. Our biology dictates that even when we loose a close loved one our grief diminishes over time. I think we are wired this way for the same reason – so that we can cope with the absolute senseless crap around us and help out those who are too weak and fragile to remain in their right senses to do much about their grievances. Does a mother’s heart not bleed when she sees an infant baby dumped at the side of the road like trash? We all shed tears at those stories (and many do what they can to help) but can we really, like really, feel the gravity of such a situation without falling apart?

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    1. While I agree that we need to move on to certain degree, but this same ability to drown out the craziness around us has made us indifferent to a point where we can’t go back. Maybe it’s time we stepped up a bit. Maybe it’s time we stopped this ‘drawing room’ chatter and tried NOT to move on. Because only then will the urgency of DOING something will arise, rather than just THINKING or TALKING about the world’s suffering. Which is what we do, all the time. Like how leaders all over the world issue statements condemning the murder, the deaths, but do they ever feel that strongly enough to take action? I don’t know, I might be off here, but at least I know one thing. What we have been doing for centuries and centuries, has brought the world to its current destructive nature. So there has to be something that we are not doing right?

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  3. Wow. I don’t think you have a clue about the demands of compassion. It’s not “feeling someone else’s pain” and fixing it. It’s WAY more than that. I also don’t think you know much about the world if you think it’s “destructive” nature is “current.” True compassion requires a kind of courage and imagination that, honestly, is pretty hard to achieve and very hard to find. True compassion is sometimes tough love. Sometimes it’s agreeing to help someone die. Sometimes it’s backing up and letting another person make the choices he/she is hellbent on making. It involves not just courage and imagination, but respect and patience — and faith. It’s not a feeling any more than real love is a feeling. Compassion is a job description.

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  4. Thanks for your comments Martha. Of course it’s ‘way more than that.’ This might have been a small example I gave, but my entire point was to show how huge a word it really is. And then we have the audacity to go around claiming our right over it, or misusing it to a point where it seems fake. I liked how you described compassion, but even that is not a full description. So maybe yes, like love, it cannot be defined in one way. And sure the world’s destructive nature just didn’t materialize in the 21st century. It was always there, but I think it is at its WORST now. And that’s as much of the world I need to know to understand that.

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  5. Wow. Powerfully written. You made me think. I agree with a lot of what you said. I see the Facebook type of compassion taking over. I see “us” getting bombarded by so much information that we become dull. Our brains are still set to hunter/gatherer mode, where the amount of information and compassion, only had to be for our immediate group. Now we get horrors 24/7 from around the globe. Yet to blanketly say “we are without compassion” or that “we” no longer know how to give it, I think is over stating things too much. There are small acts of compassion that happen daily, every where; you just don’t read about them. There is also real problems of availability, I may be as compassionate and PASSIONATE about something that happened across the globe but I can’t do anything about it. I’m here and I’m poor and barely making it myself.

    I don’t think compassion is huge. I think it is intimate. I sure as heck don’t think it is a thumbs up on FaceBook or a bucket of water gesture.

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    1. I loved what you said, “compassion is intimate.” It really is. There is good in this world, all is not lost. But there are times when the dread and misery gets too much. It is such times that faith in feelings like compassion wavers.

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  6. Wow, Nida this hit so close to home.

    Just the other day I was having the exact conversation with someone about the featured quote in your image. Perhaps a lot of what we do, like you rightly said is supposed to make us feel better–like we’ve contributed our own quota to life’s emotional reservoir.

    Here’s to us offering a better version of compassion–a truer one.

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  7. I think I understand the ‘spirit’ behind your words and the writing style you chose.

    I go with Daniel Goleman’s view of compassion. To that I add that we cannot be ‘compassionate’ about all the injustice in the world. We can act on those that ‘move’ us- perhaps in that place, we would be more effective. We can empathize and sympathize with the rest. And in my view, that’s okay.

    Thanks for stirring us. It’s easy to be desensitized.

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