Jesus failed. Once known as the Christ, the Anointed, he taught a message of love. He inspired religions guilty of murder, fear, ignorance, and intolerance. He taught Compassion. We failed to listen. We cling to such petty ethereal things like money. We live like we have forever. We live like we do not depend upon Earth or each other. We are selfish. Bankruptcy because of medical expenses is just survival of the fittest after all. If a family loses their home it is their own fault for not striving hard enough or managing their finances. The eyes of the Teacher stare from the dirty faces of the homeless. His reflection is in the tears of children as their parents divorce for selfish insignificant reasons. He holds the hands of those who must choose between medicine and food.
He asks us quietly, “Where is your compassion?”
Compassion is not found in the pocket. The numbers of people suffering thrown at us by news broadcasts are numbing.Just throwing money at those people do little to further Compassion. Compassion is found in one on one interactions with people. It is found in the touch of a hand, in the wince of sympathy. Compassion is found in the small actions between two people. It is a connection that can only be established between individuals.
Compassion is a group of emotions, behaviors, and states of mind. Chief of these emotions is empathy. Empathy is the act of identifying with a person on a direct personal level. It is a feeling of shared pain and joy. Empathy is the initial mover of Compassion. It drives us to lay a hand on a shoulder or embrace someone. However, empathy is an emotion, and like all emotions it fades over time.
The Compassion Jesus, the Teacher, speaks of transcends emotion; it is a way of life. Compassion is a state of mind and a decision. It isn’t mystical or religious. Everyone is compassionate toward the people they love. The Teacher simply calls upon us to develop and extend our natural compassion toward everyone we meet.
People recoil and hold their breath. A man shambles through the parting sea of humanity. A threadbare cloak hangs from the living skeleton. Underneath, years of grime cover more than the rags that serve as clothing. He skin is melted wax. Lesions pucker angrily on his face.
The man pauses a span away from a dark skinned weathered man. The man only wears plain homespun wool. Dirty toes stick out over his sandal. The weathered man falls silent and wipes sweat from his forehead. His eyes are kind.
“Rabbi…I suffer…” the leper doesn’t finish. He looks away from the man with kind eyes.
The crowd is hushed. The Teacher with the kind eyes kneels before the diseased man. A warm hand cups the ravaged face. Tears roll down the lepers cheeks.
The kind eyes glisten. “Be at peace. Your sins are forgiven.” It is the first touch the leper felt since he fell sick.(1)
We are all lepers. We are sick with the same disease: suffering. Everyone feels pain and hunger. Everyone gets sick and cries tears of sorrow. Everyone dies. We all share the same suffering. We also share the same joys. These commonalities are the foundation for Compassion. It is really in our best interest to ease the suffering of the people around us.
Compassion is reciprocal. Every act builds a support system of good will that uplifts us when it is our time to suffer. We are social beings; isolation is depressing. There is no need to isolate ourselves from each other. We share the same disease and can’t infect each other. Our narrow concerns lead us to forget the commonality of humanity. Daily we are encouraged to compete and consume for our own benefit and comfort.
Daily, we are blinded by these messages. Divorce, anger, and even war result from our fundamental lack of concern for our fellow lepers. In the end the problems that seem insurmountable are simply driven by selfishness. It is easy to be discouraged. The numbers of people suffering are enormous – in fact everyone living on earth. We can only lay a comforting hand on one person at a time. The Teacher is content to help one person with one touch.
Compassion is found in the mind and the hands. We can only address what is immediately before us. Compassion is what makes us human; it is what makes us happy. The keys to happiness are empathy and love for all beings on this isolated sphere of life. Happiness is a decision, a state of mind. It is a mind. The external things such as fame and wealth are pleasurable, but they don’t create happiness. Compassion is a relationship with ourselves and other people. Build a relationship upon emotion alone, and the relationship will fail. That relationship is simply a decision to love people enough to ease their suffering. Everyone wants happiness.
The best way to develop happiness is to help other people with their happiness. Selfishness is pleasurable in the short-term, but it cannot make us happy. Happiness has an element of peace that pleasure lacks. Pleasure always needs another hit. It drives us to keep more. It is not evil; it is simply an emotion. When it is mistaken for happiness, however, it creates selfishness. Pleasure is a tidal wave, intense and crashing.
Happiness is a quiet stream, gentle and lasting. Practicing compassion is the way to develop a quiet stream of contentment.
Pleasure is a hamster wheel. Knowing we can and do make a different in people’s lives brings peace. When we love others, according to the Teacher, we love ourselves (2). Failing the Teacher prevents us from obtaining true peace and happiness.
1. Mark 1: 40-45
2. Mark 12:31