The Dalai Lama places compassion at the core of his beliefs and vision to the world. A manifestation of this compassion is through an idea of unconditional love for your fellow child, woman, or man. Simple as it may sound, in practical terms, it proves to be quite controversial.
A sense of oneness across the human family. This notion is at the heart of the argument. Irrespective of your nationality, religion, gender, or wealth, we all are looking for happiness and the avoidance of suffering. This is the fundamental quest of our lives and makes up our basic humanity. We can break down and link the sum total of our collective behaviour’s – past, present, and future – to this idea. If this then is true, it would be possible to rationalise any action or type of behaviour. Event those that lead to negative outcomes.
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, does a monumental job of demonstrating this. It is a moving story that had an outsized contribution to my worldview. Whether the undesirable behaviour is bullying, indifference, or disapproval, they all have their roots in the fundamental quest we share. I’m not saying that it is easy if the bullying is directed towards you, nor should you be quick to forgive. Actions are absolute. They have to have consequences. We should, however, strive to act compassionately.
To be able to do so, we need consider is the age-old argument of nature versus nurture. Are we born pre-programmed towards some behaviours and not others? To what extent can our experiences affect these initial settings? If at all. I choose to side with nurture on this debate. While I am sure that the science has some consensus, I choose to believe in free-will over determinism. Nurture, therefore, aligns better with this view.
Experience is a funny thing, it’s not something you can directly compare. No accurate measures exist, it is all subjective, dependent on the set of our cumulative experiences. Therefore, if we believe that we share a basic humanity, then the diversity in behaviour is a result of the diversity in our experiences. No two people are every going to share identical experiences even in the same environments. This much has been proven across the multitude of studies looking at twins in the 20th century.
We will never be able to truly empathise with someone else’s thinking or feelings. There are too many interacting experiences that feed into it, it is too nuanced. We can, however, appreciate that these actions stem from the fundamental quest we are all on. Whatever the consequences are, we should be able to acknowledge that it is coming from our shared basic humanity.
I will leave you the passage that inspired this reflection from A Force For Good.
“we aim in this direction whenever we are confronted with someone’s suffering and respond to help, regardless of whether we know the person or not. our compassionate action is not conditional – not dependent on how this person may have treated us or whether we have a relationship. When we see suffering, we do what we can. “Daniel Goleman