Have you noticed how much pain there is among your friends in real life and and here on social as well?
Most of the time I can shut a lot of it it out. I have to do that sometimes.
This week alone I’ve talked to or interacted with people who:
-Is watching a young mother die of cancer
-Is dealing with a long course of chemotherapy
-Just had to change to a new course of chemotherapy
-Lost their husband from cancer not long ago
-Lost their father from a sudden death not long ago
-Is suffering from severe back problems
And that’s just the physical suffering. There are also the people:
-Struggling with dementia and taking care of those who are.
-Hate the hard work they have to do to survive
-Are single and worrying about how they are going to care for themselves when they get old
-Are anxious about raising money to keep the non-profit they run going.
-Are gay and still struggling to win the acceptance of their parents or decide to stop caring.
And that doesn’t include people who are dealing with natural disasters in their home country not to mention Ukrainians I know caught up in the Russian war.
There are, of course, wonderful things as well—births, weddings, anniversaries, graduations.
But life is a struggle for so many people so much of the time. It’s hard and painful to see it and of course far worse to live it.
And that’s why most of the time we don’t see it. We don’t read the posts that are about sadness. Or we skim them quickly giving a perfunctory hug reaction. And the worse the situation someone is in, sometimes expressing compassion is even harder
It can be too overwhelming to take it all in.
That’s a human reaction. It’s understandable. We have to narrow our focus to move forward and deal with our own stuff.
But what I can’t forgive even if I understand it is the hard-hearted people whose reaction to the world around them is disdain for those who are weak, blame for the victims, and support for those who not only will not lift a finger to help but attack those who seek public policies that provide support and compassion to those who need it.
I can’t forgive the people who support politicians who are cruel to others.
I’ve been working on political messaging in the last few months. What I am writing here is not part of that messaging. In the United States appeals to compassion and concern for our fellow human beings isn’t effective in moving swing voters let alone those on the other side. People by and large don’t have a lot of compassion for others outside their immediate family.
(And that’s why I’m extremely grateful for those of you who have been so supportive while I’ve dealt with my back and neck issues).
People mostly can’t or won’t see the suffering around them because to see it is to recognize our shared vulnerability to disease, pain, disaster, loneliness, and poverty. Asking them to be compassionate to others backfires politically most of the time because it scare them about their own circumstances, which leads people to be less generous, rather than generating support for others.
I understand that reaction. But I find it sad that political appeals to compassion fall short because we are too weak to face life as it is and acknowledge our own fears.
I don’t have any solution. This is, again, not a political message but a personal one.
From time to time we get into moods, like the one I’m in today, where we think about all the pain and suffering around us.
I think that’s a good thing and I want to encourage it.
We need the strength to face life as it is for many reasons. But perhaps the most important one is that it will give us compassion for those who need our love. And perhaps dissuade us from the cruelty that comes to easy to all of us.