Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Category

We Are All One

January 22, 2021

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul writing to the Christ-followers in Galatia.

For Paul writing as a Jew, bringing together “Jew and Greek” essentially meant bringing together all races. Slave and free brings together economic classes. Male and female, of course, genders.

He knew that there were still people of different races, political/economic status, and genders. It is an important part of our spiritual growth that we people who are practicing spiritual formation realize there exist no real boundaries among people. We are to treat and live with all as the same.

A thousand years before Paul spiritual seekers discovered the same truth.

Two thousand years after Paul, we still struggle with bringing that reality into our lives. In America we celebrate (well, some of us) a woman who is also black and south Asian rising to a high political position. And not without some struggle. Why do we need to celebrate? Why is it so unusual.

But not just here. Much of the strife in Africa is tribal. In Asia, it’s religious and ethnic. Europe has its own difficulties.

Treating everyone as simply human seems to be a difficulty for all humans.

We need to break the chain. When you meet someone, try to see what sort of person they are inside not just outside. And treat everyone the same–kindly.

Giving to Others

January 21, 2021

True words are not necessarily beautiful.
Beautiful words are not necessarily truthful.
One who is achieved does not argue,
and one who argues is not achieved.
One who knows the deepest truth
does not need segmented information.
One who knows vast amounts of information
may not know the truth.

One of whole virtue
is not occupied with amassing material goods
Yet, the more he lives for others,
the richer his life becomes.
The more he gives, the more his life abounds.
The subtle truth of the universe is beneficial, not harmful.

There may be no better time in America to read Wisdom literature. One of my disciplines for more than 20 years has been to immerse my mind in it every January. What a way to kick off a year.

But as I sit and contemplate the world, not one place on the globe can I see where such thoughts would not be worthwhile.

Those words were written perhaps 2,500 years ago and ascribed to “the ancients.” How long we humans have known what is the true path–and how little we have followed it.

As Jesus told the religious leader who correctly identified the “neighbor” in the story of the Good Samaritan, “Go and do likewise.”

Be Kind, Simple, Humble

January 15, 2021

Contemplate upon these ancient words of wisdom

There are three treasures which I embrace and follow closely;

The first is to be kind;

The second is to be simple;

The third is to not put one’s own importance first in the world.

Lao Tzu

Let us think of people we have met who are kind. We love to be around those people. They are not weak. They have inner strength of awareness of the situation of others.

There are people we know, surely, who do not overly complicate things and situations. They grasp the essence without embellishment. They live without ornamentation. They cannot be tempted away by outlandish promises.

Who among us like to be around someone who thinks only of themselves? Those who, when in conversation, seem not to be even aware of our existence while listening for words of praise or criticism of themselves?

Perhaps we have been caught up in the events of the world, no matter where we live. Perhaps we need this reminder today of three treasures—kindness, simplicity, humility.

Practice Compassion

December 9, 2020

Seven Things Mindful People Do

  1. Practice being curious
  2. Forgive themselves
  3. Hold their emotions lightly
  4. Practice compassion
  5. Make peace with imperfection
  6. Embrace vulnerability
  7. Understand all things come and go

Practice?

That implies that I might not get it right the first time. Which means there will be subsequent times. Which means that I show compassion towards someone in this hour, maybe there is someone the next hour to whom I should show compassion. And perhaps I’ll do it better the next time. Practice means doing it over and over until it’s part of our being. And even then, continuing to practice.

But as I heard from a retired Naval pilot discussing his training, “It’s not ‘practice makes perfect’, it’s ‘perfect practice makes perfect.’ “

A famous concert pianist was heard sitting at the piano and running through scales. What I should be doing with my guitar daily. What I should be doing with compassion always.

We cannot just practice mindlessly. Just a quick “I’m sorry” and move on. There must be a mindful quality to the practice, an intentional calling upon compassion.

Quick, what’s the shortest verse in the Christian Bible? “Jesus wept.”

Jesus mourned with the mourners.

Can we do less?

I was sitting in meditation and the thought visited me–what if, what if we all practiced compassion. What a different world it would be.

Tell The Truth

November 12, 2020

A true master never offends anyone, but she or he is always truthful.

I am amazed and in awe of the Desert Fathers who never used 500 words when 15 would do.

They obviously took their cue from Jesus. He could evidently teach for a long time, yet no teaching was longer than a few sentences.

Yet, they spoke the truth with love and perhaps some went away disappointed or didn’t agree, but they were not offensive.

There is a cartoon from early in the popular Internet era where the wife calls from the bedroom, “It’s time for bed, dear.” The husband replies, “Just a moment, I found another error on the Internet I need to correct.”

How hard it is on social media to speak the truth to someone or point out an error (gasp, yes, they do occur) in 15 words without offending. Lord knows I’ve tried myself–and failed.

I forget which famous person (probably attributed to many) said, “I apologize for the length of this letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

To be truthful without offense in a few words requires thought and compassion. Each is in short supply these days.

When Our Blessings Are Another’s Curse

May 30, 2019

“Those tornados last night were destructive.”

“Yes, we were blessed by the Lord that they didn’t hit us.”

“I don’t think the people who were struck would appreciate hearing that.”

–Conversation overheard at a coffee shop.

We were indeed fortunate that the series of tornados struck 35 miles west of us and others 35 miles south.

But to say we received a special blessing of God implies that those other people, who are every bit as Christian as we, are cursed by God.

Some sensitivity to others before turning everything into “all about me” comes from taking a pause before making an uncaring comment.

We do this so easily in prayers. We pray for God to bless us, or support us, or protect us. But in so doing, we unwittingly are praying the hurt, destruction, and even death of others.

Developmental psychologists can describe for us at what age we should be outgrowing the self-absorption we had at 2 years of age. But we struggle into and through adulthood to broaden our view beyond ourselves.

We, in our location, were quite fortunate not to have destruction visited upon us. Others were not so lucky. We need to reach out in aid. For, the next time the tables may be turned.

Quest for a Moral Life

May 10, 2019

Some people throughout their 30s and 40s are on a quest for individual success. It’s all about them. Many hit their 50s and 60s and seek rather to make a contribution to others, to their community, to a mission beyond themselves.

I noticed as far back as my university days that while some people were oriented toward service, most seemed to be in it for themselves. They had no empathy gene. Of course, I’m a Boomer, and we’re notorious for being the “Me Generation” as Time magazine nailed it back in the day.

David Brooks writes a column in The New York Times. He has a book coming out that I’ve read some excerpts–The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. He researched the observation I’ve had.

We start out as individualists trying to climb the mountain to success and fame. It’s all about us. Being better than everyone else.

Then something happens–a death, a brush with serious illness, an experience that shakes us out of ourselves. And we leave that first mountain and begin to climb the second one.

Then a banker quits and teaches elementary school. A lawyer goes on a mission trip to a destitute country and begins to devote time and expertise to helping the people there. A mother shaken by a child’s suicide becomes strong helping other mothers through the grief.

Bill Campbell, whom I discussed from the book Trillion Dollar Coach, was a successful Silicon Valley executive who coached many of the leading executives of his day–Steve Jobs and the Apple team, Eric Schmidt and the Google team, and more. He was never paid for the coaching. He was contributing back from the many blessings he had received.

When I was an adolescent, I thought moral people were those uptight, judgmental, hypocritical people whom I grew to detest. But actually, these people are far from the ideal.

Moral people have depth in experience and a desire to contribute seeking no glory for themselves. They offer not judgement, but help.

Building Up Women’s Status

October 25, 2018

Certainly the history of the Christian church’s attitude toward women is not so progressive. Even today in the United States there are denominations that teach women are inferior to men. What shocks me is when I meet a strong, yes even domineering, woman who belongs to such a church and seems to agree with it.

They justify this attitude by lifting certain “rules” from the apostle Paul and ignoring the bulk of the New Testament.

I’m reading Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey. He helps explain things I’ve read and could not articulate well. Such as the dichotomy between what Jesus taught and did and some of those “rules” from Paul.

Jesus was a gender revolutionary. For example:

The accused adulteress whom the Pharisees wanted to stone to death. Jesus turned the mob scene into an individual responsibility event and then told the woman he didn’t accuser her and to go and sin no more.

There was Mary “sitting at the feet” of Jesus meaning that she had become a disciple. But women could not be disciples of a rabbi–as Martha tried to point out. Mary’s place was in the kitchen away from the men. Jesus told Martha she was wrong.

There was the woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, uncovered and unbound her hair to dry them, and then anointed them with perfume–all to make up for the inhospitable behaviour of Simon who invited Jesus for dinner and then snubbed him. Jesus pointed out that Simon had the wrong attitude toward her.

There was the scandalous behaviour of Jesus permitting women to travel with the group and even fund their travel.

We can read these and miss the significance of the acts at that time in that culture.

Thanks to Phil for recommending the book.

Can People Change To Improve

June 28, 2018

Do you believe people can change?

It’s a simple question with tons of meaning.

Surely if you are a Christian, you should answer, “Yes!”

But how many Christians would answer no? Or, answer no to certain groups or types of people?

Tim Ferriss is a famous author of such books (I recommend) as 4 Hour Workweek, Tools of the Titans, and Tribe of Mentors.

Tim also has a podcast. You can find it on Apple Podcasts (formerly iTunes), Stitcher, or my favorite Overcast. In the latest episode, he interviews three men in a maximum security prison. Two are in for gang-related murder and one for armed robbery. Their stories of life in prison, what got them there, and how they have changed for the better are moving and encouraging. I urge you to listen even though it is more than an hour.

I believe that people can, and do, change.

God loves each and every one of us humans no matter where we were born or what we look like or what our disability is. Usually we just need the right mentor at the right time.

Extending Love In Everyday Situations

March 13, 2018

“And then I felt his hand going up my dress. When I brushed it away and said ‘No’, he wrote a big ‘0’ in the place for a tip.” –A server interviewed by The New York Times

The life of a server in a restaurant or bar involves dealing with all manner of people from nice to aloof to rude to threatening. Restaurant owners in the US have discovered that they don’t have to pay them, either. Maybe they give $2.00 per hour. It is expected that customers pay the servers through their tips.

Remember when the recommended amount was 15% for good service? Then 20%? Now restaurant owners are suggesting 25%.

Traveling to other countries is a challenge. In some no tipping is customary. I was just in The Netherlands. I looked up online what was customary and how it is usually given.

The State of New York is considering legislation mandating a minimum wage for servers to help the situation. So, The New York Times sent a reporter to interview servers. Hence the quote at the beginning.

The challenge for women is how to be friendly, maybe a little flirty, in order to get people to tip without encouraging bad behaviour. It’s a fine line in many instances. You never know that men with a couple of “adult beverages” will do.

Therefore the commandments given to help us live a good life. Treat others with respect as we expect to be treated.

Women can be boorish, demanding, and cheap, I suppose. But some men go way too far into threatening behaviour.

Going out for a good time and a good meal doesn’t give us a license to forget our instructions on how to live. A smile, a kind word, and, yes, an appropriate tip, can make someone’s day.