On Compassion and Accountability

 Compassion & Accountability

Our sermon today is about Compassion and how its mantra is not intended to excuse harmful behavior. Although we can recognize that “Everything that does evil is in pain,” it does not obligate us to become a punching bag. Suffering may explain evil, but it should never be used as an excuse to inflict harm upon others.

When we talk about suffering, we are using a more Buddhist than Western definition of the word. We mean that suffering that arises when you form unhealthy attachments to temporary things, like objects or ideas, and then start being afraid of somebody taking them away. It is not always a conscious kind of suffering; sometimes it is deep in the subconscious mind, but it corrupts all thought and action. When a human being -who is basically just an ape wearing pants- is living submersed in that kind of fear, they cannot behave rationally until recognizing and controlling it. The fear will trigger anger, and anger is sloppy: it flies around all over the place and does not care who it hits. Anger is frustrated fear, and a fearful, angry person is not in control of themselves.

At the same time, somebody who is suffering and chooses to inflict harm instead of seeking help or healing is responsible for that choice, and it is okay to hold them accountable for it. In fact, that is the first step toward healing their suffering. They need to acknowledge the harm they have inflicted upon others as well as themselves and do what they can do to make it right. Some people who are suffering and don’t realize it are those who fear social progress. They do not think they are acting out of hate, but rather a misguided kind of love, trying to “save” those they deem morally inferior. In their eyes, it is the other who is suffering and needs to be rescued. This is basically how progressives and conservatives view one another, which is why social progress moves so very slowly.

If somebody is hurting you, and you cannot help them, the most Compassionate thing you can do is cease interactions with them, if you can. If that is not possible, there will be a temptation to retaliate. One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is deal with an angry and fearful or even downright hateful person without answering them with our own anger. I refer to it as “Dodging the claws and tending the wound” because it really is like trying to help a wounded wild animal who is attacking you at the same time. We will not always succeed, but as with the rest of the Virtues, to become better people we should at least try. This is something I an currently actively working on. It takes Effort and Mindfulness, and a whole lot of Self-Control.

Knowing that “Everything that does evil is in pain,” do you react with Compassion when somebody who is suffering tries to hurt you?


Popular posts from this blog

On Sacrifice and the Path

Beware the False Dichotomy

Path Doctrine on the Seven Deadly Sins