“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other—not in pity
or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learned how to
turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”
~ Nelson Mandela
With every click of the television remote, each ding of a breaking news alert, nations are reeling from consecutive violent attacks. Some of these attacks are focused on a specific target others appear random and lacking in clear motives. While investigations are underway to make sense of these vicious and senseless acts, the world is left in pain. The media scrambles to gather facts to support reasons that provide an explanation for the violence. These facts and justification do little to assuage the loss and suffering.
We are all shaped by our experiences and influences throughout life. From the time we are children, our biases, opinions, and prejudices begin to develop. We learn about our world through interactions with those closest to us. We follow traditions based on the cultures, heritage, and religion of our families and friends. As we continue to grow and pull away from this initial foundation, our natural curiosities begin to take over and we start to question those lessons from childhood as our sphere of influence increases.
Sometimes those voices from our past and lessons from long ago are pushed aside to create room for a greater understanding of the world around us. This natural curiosity brings about another inevitable flaw with our world and that is disappointment. As a child, we are filled with optimism, innocence, and resilience. We grow up learning to share our toys, to talk through our misunderstandings, and to seek forgiveness when we selfishly hurt a friend’s feelings. These little lessons throughout childhood reinforce the notion that life is fair. However, once we reach adulthood, these lessons seem to betray all that we encounter.
We slowly start to lose our wide-eyed, Pollyanna outlook on life as realizations of inequality and injustice begin to challenge our beliefs. Hurt feelings slowly turn to resentment and our once open hearts slowly turn to stone. As humans, we instinctively take actions to protect ourselves against vulnerability, pain, and suffering. It is easier to recoil and react out of hate and fear then it is to reach for understanding.
Lately, we have been bombarded with name calling, tantrums, and divisive speech. We are reprimanded for these behaviors as children. In the middle of it all we have pushed aside the greatest trait we share as humans—compassion. The ability to see someone else’s suffering and reach out a hand instead of passing out judgment. It is the trait that invokes the feeling of sadness over violence against other human beings. It is the trait that seeks to offer a homeless person a warm meal. It is the trait that reaches to set aside our own fear in order to understand the views of another.
People say that violence is not the answer. That is true. People say that protests are useless. That is up for debate. But what we all should be offering as a solution is compassion. The willingness to set aside our personal fears and ignorance to better understand the pain, hurt, dreams, and hopes of others. We need to remember those simple childhood lessons we learned on the playground when conquering the imaginary dragon was possible because we saw past our differences and instead embraced our strengths.
“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
~ Bryan Stevenson