Crime Compassion and Caring
I am drawn to share on compassion by a thought-provoking sermon and discourse by Elton Terry - Bible scholar, member of the St Andrew Church of Christ - and the furore caused by Ian Boyne's article on crime.
Elton's comments inform this article and highlight the fact that the capacity for compassion paints a stark distinction between Christ and even those who were closest to him. He cared. Contrast that with Karen Armstrong's observation that "Compassion is not a popular virtue".
The first challenge we have with compassion is not so much that we are callous. It is that we wear emotional blinkers. The starving beggar stands at the entrance to the fast-food establishment. We see her physically. However, from the security of our emotional blinkers - we really do not see her and feel comfortable ignoring her even while giving thanks for our blessing.
Two challenges with compassion arise from our view of risk.
The first is an innate desire not to be deceived. So at a time when trickery is rampant, we put up firewalls to protect ourselves. "Is this a genuine need or am I being taken for a ride?"
Dashing to church one morning, we saw an older man kneeling down with his head on the ground. We stopped and he indicated that he was hungry. We gave him some food. Sometime later, my wife saw the same man in a similar posture elsewhere. There is the man at various stop signs with an infant on his motorbike, who claims he has "ran out of gas."
We use those examples to try each request for help like high court judges, and we clear our consciences if we find them guilty.
The second risk-related challenge with compassion is more genuine. Compassion can be risky. Reaching out to help can in fact endanger life, limb and property, not to mention our peace of mind.
"The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' But ... the good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'" (Martin Luther King, Jr)
Peace of Mind
We live in a high-paced, demanding and emotionally draining time. That is one reason for the increasing tendency to pull back and be consumed by our needs and those of our inner circle.
Showing compassion can be taxing. Recipients of kindness do not always qualify for Most Congenial awards. Caring comes with its fair share of challenges, and even abuse. Yet, blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:10).
Sometimes it is just plain inconvenient to care. Being called out late at night to go to an unfamiliar area to help a stranger is not convenient. Pushing against tight deadlines is not the best time to be asked to stop and give a patient listening ear.
Yet, as Armstrong puts it, "Compassion is not an option. It's the key to our survival."
Witnessing compassion and caring has the effect of softening our hearts. It restores a respect for humanity. This is one important non-budgetary, non-human rights abuse action that each of us, regardless of gender, age or class, can take to reduce the scourge of crime.
Look outside of yourself and your circumstances and be compassionate. Show someone you care this week. Remove your emotional blinkers and see someone in need. Take the risk of being scammed and be ready to put up with the inconvenience and hassle of caring.
Also, remember that life is unpredictable and situations may be reversed for you or future generations of your loved ones.
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- Trevor E.S. Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy home of the 'Certified Behavioural Coach' programme that is accredited by the International Coach Federation and the Society for Human Resource Management. Email: email@example.com.