On empathy and compassion

question-everything

Important to question the self when there is a demand to show compassion for another, if the self has an authentic empathy for that person, if they have the resources and ability to offer relief to the suffering of another without harm to self.

Cycling late at night through my local city centre I passed a young female sitting in the cold darkness in a shop doorway, homeless.  Our eyes met, and I was troubled at what I was seeing, how this person could be there now, my many different feelings I had at that moment.  Like a ghost, I moved on into the night, another face to her, and she another face of the many homeless I encounter each day.

 

Despite being in a period of prosperity my country of the UK, like many nations, hides the dark truth that all our public services, including welfare, have been cut to the bone, and those in the most need have fallen into homelessness and poverty in numbers not seen according to some for decades.

Both the Left Hand Path and the Right Hand Path worldviews talk about the concepts of empathy and compassion, but what does this mean in the context of that homeless person? Empathy is both a skill and quality of being able to understand the feelings and experiences of others.  Compassion proceeds from empathy by having the ability to act to help another person, especially one who is suffering.

Those of the LHP are harsh in examining our own feelings and intentions so that we avoid falling into delusion and fakery that most of the human population fall into.  My empathy was limited to seeing a vulnerable young female, and it reminded me of the many times of my own vulnerability, when I was cast out into the streets as a kid.  My empathy did not run deeper than that because I did not have any previous or other interaction with that person.

Could I have compassion for this homeless person, to act to alleviate their suffering?  No.  Firstly, all my own personal resources are tied up in my own personal crisis at this moment.  Secondly, to become involved with another person entails a high risk of becoming entangled with the many challenges of that person as this homeless person has, such as if they have bad associates or a mental illness, issues that I was not in a position to deal with.  Thirdly, I did not have the political power or influence to change the policies and attitudes that caused and maintains the suffering of this homeless person, such as welfare, high rates and property prices, lack of housing, or the lack of mental health and other social support this homeless person would need.

Because I choose to be Left Hand Path, I choose to be authentic, and I won’t act out of morality or because I feel bad. I do so in the light of understanding my limits and my true feelings.  This homeless person reminded me of my own vulnerability, it motivates me to act to alleviate their suffering, for I see in some manner that my help to that homeless person, also gives relief to me.  However, I recognised I could do nothing for this homeless person, I did not have the personal resources, or the power to influence anything, or the ability to cope with the predictable problems of getting involved with this person.  So I did nothing.  I hit my limits, and I recognise my limits.

Society is built on the process of exploitation of everything for the end goal of consumerism.  There is a risk that in helping others the individual becomes exploited and consumed, so in my opinion the individual always acts from a position of power of only acting in compassion with those they trust, and where they have the resources and ability to alleviate suffering without harm to themselves.

The individual is daily bombarded by calls upon themselves to alleviate the suffering of others, but 99% of these calls the individual can do nothing about, and if the individual does so, they risk exploitation and being drained of their resources to the extent the individual suffers harm.

It may seem cruel, but in most cases the individual does not have the resources or ability to do anything about it without suffering personal harm, it is better to not become involved.

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5 thoughts on “On empathy and compassion

  1. A post that echoes my feelings on empathy and compassion. These are two facets of my being that I find difficult. To those close to me (there aren’t many) I have slight feelings of empathy and compassion. To those who I have no connection with, those feelings are zero. I feel no remorse for these traits of mine, in fact I quite like them. That way I don’t get fucked over by morons with their agendas.

    • Hi Crawling Tiger. I identify with everything you say, it is my same point of view. I want to be both authentic and objective to my self, if I am unable to be this to me, then I can not be this to others. If others dislike my viewpoint, or yours, then thats their problem.

      • Exactly ! I’m beyond thinking what other’s think of me. That ship sailed many years ago. So many people have let me down in the past. Many who I thought I could rely on no matter what. I’ve learned the hard way, but if I hadn’t, I would have continued trusting these people. It’s probably one of the main reasons I find myself on the path I’m on today. So in a way they’ve done me a favour.

  2. Thought-provoking! Of course, in a way, you are correct. We cannot deal individually with each person we might help. We would ourselves be overwhelmed and soon be homeless. This is why collective and systemic action is needed. If each person tries to push the wheel of history just a little toward more truth, trust, cooperation, and compassion. If we exhibit even one act of selfless compassion, that ripples on and on. We cannot do every such act we might conceive of. We only need to do one to push the world of our grandchildren toward one that is more fair and more compassionate. What we do is eventually what we become both individually and collectively. https://petersironwood.com/2017/04/11/ripples/

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