Life as Practice #2: Holding the world with compassion

We are reminded, sometimes all too often, of the brutality in the world. Sometimes, that brutality hits close to home, and other times, it is far distant, out of our sight. Having to acknowledge, over and over (and over, and over) again that human beings can be brutal with one another is painful and difficult. It is hard to accept.

I don’t want to accept that people build bombs, and place them places where they know people will be hurt and killed. I don’t want to accept that people take weapons, and shoot people deliberately. I don’t want to accept that women and children are raped, molested and assaulted every day. Worse yet, sometimes this brutality is either done in my name, or done with my complicity, or my tax dollars. I don’t want to have to accept that, either. I don’t want to accept any of it, none of it at all.

But of course, I must accept this as true, because it is what is. This is not to say that by accepting it I condone it, or think it is right, or proper. This is not to say that because I accept it, I will do nothing to change it. This is just to say I must accept it, because it is what is, and unless I can accept what is, I will find no peace, and no end to my own suffering.

Just like we must hold ourselves with great gentleness and compassion, we need to hold others, and the hurting world, with the same compassion. And, we need to hold the perpetrators with compassion, too. That one is really hard. It’s hard to find compassion for someone who has done something we find deeply abhorrent. This doesn’t mean we don’t hold that person responsible and accountable for what they did. It just means that we have compassion, because we must remember that any brutality is born of suffering.

Many, many people, in different traditions, phrased in different ways, have said this same basic thing over many millennia, including both Jesus and the Buddha. Violence only begets violence. The only way out of a cycle of violence is love. The only response to violence that will end it is compassion.

And it’s OK, if you can’t accept it. Allow that you can’t accept it now. Give yourself the space to be angry or frightened (or both.) Don’t fight those emotions, because they are also what is. And perhaps, over time, you will be able to accept what is, and respond with compassion. And then, the world will be different.

(This was actually meant to be post #3, but the events of the day suggested to me that I write this today. I will spend at least two posts on actual practices that I have found to be really helpful in my journey.)

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