There are times that I am cranky, and often, I take this out on others. These… ehm… “receivers” of my anger often have no idea what kinds of emotional and physical pain I feel, so I assume they think ill of me. But worse, I find myself judging people when they are rude to me and being completely oblivious of my hypocrisy. Where is my compassion?
In our society, there exists an unspoken belief that compassion requires some knowledge of a person’s situation. I may see a boy with a badly burned leg on the news whose injury is a product of war, thus, my response is to feel sadness for him because he is innocent. I feel sympathy and compassion because I am not a sociopath. But I do not understand why I need to know this boy’s background to feel something for him. Recently, I’ve tossed around the idea that maybe true compassion requires a leap of faith in the goodness of others. Did you see my commentary on the hearts photo? A belief in the goodness of others is something I lack.
Let’s throw cynicism and misanthropy aside for just a moment (don’t worry, you can pick it back up later, I’m sure I will). We can begin with the wild premise that when people are shitty, there might be a reason for it. You know, some people are capable of enduring great suffering silently without losing their ability to function normally in society—to treat other people with respect, to continue on with the social niceties. Those are some tough motherfuckers and I tip my hat to them. But others hurt so deeply they lose that capacity. This may not be a sign of weakness, but that of a deeply injured person, whether those injuries are physical, emotional, spiritual, or any combination therein. More often than not the people who need compassion are not those whose ailments are obvious. The people who suffer in silence need it. They need your caring and hat-tipping and they need second chances. I’m not saying that having this kind of mindset is easy. After all, it is much simpler to believe that a grumpy old man–let’s call him Mr. Crankypants–mumbling to himself rudely about you in the supermarket produce aisle is an asshole… more difficult to imagine that he may have lost yet another friend (or a family member or spouse) to death or illness. Maybe Mr. Crankypants has arthritis and you walked in a direction that forced him to move, causing him pain. Maybe he is poor and can’t afford enough food. Maybe his children don’t contact him often, or maybe Mr. Crankpants has no little Crankypantlet children at all and regrets it because now he is alone. We can’t know. We can only note his behavior and decide how to respond. I am a person whose instinct is to say, “Fuck you, butthole!” to someone who is rude to me, which is terribly unfortunate. Because as I’ve hopefully demonstrated, rudeness may very well be a symptom of something that, if only we knew about it, would instill compassion in our wretched, acrid little hearts. I urge myself and anyone else to take a breath and think before screaming, “Fuck you, butthole!” You never know. Mr. Crankypants might be a crankypants because the world withheld kindness, as it has deprived us all of the comforts we deserve.