The psychological root that empowers a natural sense of morality is compassion that comes from empathy. Through the quality of empathy we understand that suffering hurts others in just the same way that it hurts us. This ability is what gives us an organic, straightforward sense of conscience. It reveals to us how likely it would be for someone to feel diminished if they were lied to, violated if they were stolen from, disempowered if they were excluded from a decision, desperate if they were hungry.
A dedication to kindness offers us a chance to try to make a real difference despite the obstacles and unhappiness we might face. No matter what our belief system, actions, status, we are joined together in this world through strands of relationship, interconnection. That suffering child, orphaned through a tsunami, that we see in Indonesia or Sri Lanka is part of our lives, and we need to not forget that. There is nothing that just happens only “there” anymore–not a war, not exploitation of the weak, not a disease, not a hope for change. We need to stop reinforcing the sense of dehumanization, of “us” and “them,” of separation that leads to wanton cruelty in the first place.
And we must realize, if tomorrow is going to look any better than today, that the currency for compassion isn’t what someone does right or wrong–it is the very fact that person exists. Commitment to the possibility of kindness cannot be discarded as foolish or irrelevant, even in troubling times when we often can’t find easy answers. If we abandon the force of kindness as we confront cruelty, we won’t learn anything to take into tomorrow–not from history, not from one another, not from life.
(Image by Photosightfaces)