Compassion (Ugh)

Students ask me what I think about “compassion” as a spiritual value and I always have to tell them that I don’t like the word. It’s wimpy and flaccid to me because it has so long been overused to stroke egos that its positive connotations have been all but wiped out for me. But it is a word that is used quite a lot in connection with spirituality so I have been contemplating what “compassion” means.

In both my dictionary and in common usage the word means “sympathy” or “pity. “Sympathy” and “pity” are greatly valued in the world (this alone should make you suspicious). They are attitudes of separation because they are founded in the belief that personal stories are real. They are supposed to be about joining with another but they actually reinforce separation in your mind. When you look on a personal story that you have projected on another and you “feel for” them you are teaching yourself that the story that you have for them is real and that you are not the source of it. Moreover, sympathy and pity say, “I have a different personal story for me than for you and, at least for the moment, mine is better.” Sympathy and pity validate the personal mind in you because it feels “good” to be “compassionate”, because it shows what a “good” person you are, maybe even how superior you are to be able to pity and sympathize with others, and how lucky you are not to have the misfortune that you project onto them. Certainly from this point of view “compassion” does not have value to one who is serious about awakening from the illusion that separation from God is real!

My sense, though, is that when it comes to spirituality the word “compassion” is used for “Love”, and Love is Oneness, not separation. I think that when one sees Love extended by someone who is truly awakening and they are not themselves in touch with the Love that they are, they try to mimic the behavior that they see without understanding the cause. As A Course in Miracles teaches, you extend love not to be “good” but because you are Love. By loving you get in touch with your Real Nature. But to someone who doesn’t understand this, who lives in separation, it looks like the spiritual one is “pitying” someone who seems to suffer, rather than that the spiritual person cannot help but love because they know that they are Love. One who is awakening knows that what appears in the world is all in their own mind and is all equally unreal, no matter if it’s judged as “good” or “bad”, or what degree of “good” or “bad” it may be. In the presence of an appearance of suffering one who is awakening knows that Love is What is Real and extends Love not out of pity but simply because they know that Love is the Truth. In fact, they extend Love no matter what is appearing. True “compassion”, then, is not perpetuating separation through sympathy and pity; it is extending love as the result of knowing that you are Love.

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Read The Message of A Course in Miracles: A translation of the Text in plain language at www.themessageofacim.com.

Comments

will said…
Using 'The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary' it says under sympathize: Have and affinity; agree in qualities; be alike; Agree; be in harmony or accord..." While there is some truth in what your saying I suspect compassion is not as black and white as your portraying it. Maybe not as cynical? Taking the Course too literal seems to open the door for the ego. In any case you can only work with what you have at the moment, so you do the best you can and let the Holy Spirit carry the rest.

Good blog by the way.
will said…
"I think that when one sees Love extended by someone who is truly awakening...they try to mimic the behavior..." So what does the behavior look like? I'm asking this seriously, not to bait you. Do the behavior of the awakened and non-awakened look the same?
will said…
Sorry I should have included this in the last post.

The behavior I'm curious about is compassion. I ask this because in 12 step the transition of what is being taught to behavior takes on wildly different forms.
ACIM Mentor said…
Yes, the behavior and of the awakened and the non-awakened can look the same. That's why there is often confusion. People look through their own lenses at the behavior occurring and then make assumptions about what is occurring on the inside of the person doing the behavior. Just like the example given in the blog.
will said…
Liz,

Your comment covers a lot of ground. Just sitting here at the computer reading this stuff it may not seem like much, but if you have someone ill or in crises, the Course/behavior can be very confusing and loaded with ego comments. Should do this, should have done that... I live with my dad who is 90 and this whole behavior thing becomes very real.
ACIM Mentor said…
"Should", of course, Will, comes from ego. The Holy Spirit does not care what you do or don't do because the body/ego is never you. The Holy Spirit knows that you are always One with God.

The point is that you are teaching yourself what you are by where you are coming from within you; it's not your behavior that teaches you. The body's behavior follows your mind and it can look the same when you are following the Holy Spirit or the ego.
Attune to Love said…
Bravo!!!
Deep Bow~
Love is My Constant~Ananda of Love
PS:Would love to share this on my Facebook page if this is ok with you...
ACIM Mentor said…
You may share anything I write anywhere as long as you give proper attribution.
jerryo said…
I recently read an interesting new description of ego...

EGO = "The will to suffer"...

WOW !
Larry said…
"You may share anything I write anywhere as long as you give proper attribution"

I really like what you write Liz, but the quoted statement seems to be quite contrary to the message being delivered.
Anonymous said…
It might be, Will, that by Liz not saying that, should someone not properly credit the source, but rather quote her words as their own, it could only increase the guilt that the person is already carrying......

Just a thought....
Q #425: My question is about compassion. According to Buddhism, compassion is the most divine feature and one of the means leading to enlightenment. But according to A Course in Miracles, suffering and pain are illusions. So from that point of view compassion seems to play on the ego’s side, enforcing the illusion. But what would our world be without compassion?

A: First, as a clarification, the Course’s teachings come on two levels. On the level of absolute truth, suffering and compassion are both illusory, because God alone is real in the perfect Oneness of His infinite Love, extended in Christ, His creation, and in the creations of Christ, forever within the unity of God’s Being. All but this eternally extending Love is illusory.

Succinctly stated, the second level of the Course’s teachings addresses us as minds erroneously thinking that reality is defined by existence separate from and outside the Being of God: separate, autonomous beings with separate interests. The purpose of these teachings, thus, is to help us undo these mistaken, delusional beliefs that we are separate from one another and have conflicting interests and goals. On this level, the Course would agree with Buddhism in its high regard for compassion. The terminology would be a little different, but learning to be compassionate is a vital part of any student’s work with A Course in Miracles. In fact, a workshop given at the Foundation in 2001 was called "The Compassion of the Miracle," and our newsletter, The Lighthouse, has featured several articles on compassion and kindness (see Teaching Materials on our Web site). Compassion, when extended to all people and circumstances without exception, is spiritually healing because it reverses the separation we perceive among us. It reinforces the illusion when it is offered only to those deemed worthy of it, and is withheld from those judged as undeserving of our love and kindness.

The compassion in our world today all too often is laced with unkindness because it is exclusionary. Not uncommonly, the very people who would spend considerable time, energy, and money helping one group, would turn a cold shoulder to another group suffering the same plight, only because this second group espouses a different political or religious view or a different life style. Our compassion pours out to the suffering, but rarely extends to those who have inflicted that suffering. From the Course’s point of view, if we were to get beyond the behavior (form) to the content in people’s minds, we would find that we are all identical. Even those responsible for the most hideous of crimes share the very same thought system as those who devote their lives to helping the victims, which of course does not make hideous behavior acceptable. What appear to be separate, autonomous beings are but fragments of the one thought of separation, along with the guilt and fear inherent in that thought. All cruelty, brutality, and savagery are ultimately traceable to the dynamics resulting from this belief. We all share in that thought system; but we all -- without exception -- share in the correction of that insanity as well. Both thought systems -- with the power to choose between them -- define the mind of every single seemingly individual being. Undoing our belief in separation thus involves a growing perception that there is only one Son of God, and therefore if we condemn one person or group, we are really condemning ourselves. That is the basis of the Course’s view of compassion. Finally, if we keep form and content distinct, we will avoid the simplistic conclusion that the Course’s teachings on compassion invalidate judicial systems and accountability for behavioral activities.

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