Compassion: A Gateway Virtue
In our times we may feel like we are finding more and more need to do something inwardly to remedy the increasing pressures and stresses of our outward life and world. As spiritually oriented persons we understand the need for change within ourselves so that we may live in more peace within our own lives and also to contribute more peace to the world. We see our own issues and know we need to forgive and love more. That is the task of our lives: to love and accept love. Yet we find there is a barrier or gap we must cross in order to get there. Our recalcitrant egos don’t seem to want to easily let go of grievances and grief. We need some way of getting through.
The trials of our lives bring us often to react in pain and resistance. It’s natural for the animal self to want to attack the problem, but the animal self is at the far end of the consciousness spectrum as we have projected ourselves into materiality and matter-based identification. Separation-mindedness leads us to think the problem is outside of ourselves, but we must learn that separation is born only of judgement and is there for an illusion. We must use our minds to pull us back from believing in separation as a reality, to reach a point where we can hear our hearts again. Many people think that thinking doesn’t help, but as ACIM states, “changing concepts is salvation’s task.”
One idea we must get past is that attack helps. With a little thought it can be easily seen that attack/judgment is part and parcel of separation, and we must accept that there is another way that is different and leads to the peace we want. When we have and troubles that hurt us there is a powerful gift buried within them. At first they may make us think that the world or certain people within it don’t care about us. Healing begins when we note that in our own hurt we really recognize that the message here is not that the world doesn’t care, but that it needs more caring added to it. That naturally begins with us.
What do we want most when we are hurt, or when we have been caught in hurtful errors of our own? Understanding, which means really compassion and forgiveness. We want to feel safe. As the Law of the Universe and of Consciousness is “what goes around comes around” we need to take then next spiritually rational step to see that we ourselves must add that compassion we would see in the world, so that it can be shared by all, can be learned by all, and eventually come back to us as well. And in this giving we receive the greatest gift, which is giving the high virtues that are in our heart.
I call compassion a “gateway” virtue because it helps us get past the barrier our own feelings of hurt, anger and defensiveness put up. When we sincerely look within we can see and feel in our own pain or embarrassment what is must feel like for others who are suffering the same, or have behaved in similar, less than enlightened ways. In our ordinary society we are tempted to judge others who err or who have seemed to hurt us, but looking at our own errors we can feel what they felt like, both the stresses and ignorance that led to our lacks or faults, as well as the shame, defensiveness, embarrassment and perhaps denial, as well as the stress of trying to change and become better than we were.
Here we can turn our own pain into a gift for others, and see that we indeed cannot judge them. This opens the gate to forgive them, to have compassion and refrain from judgment. And as we give this to others we learn to accept forgiveness and compassion ourselves. Innately knowing that we have increased our own virtue with compassion and forgiveness we feel better about ourselves, and so grow all the other virtues that we seek to embody. We become more loving, more kind and peaceful and more willing to give and receive goodness in our lives.
Compassion turns us around and lifts us out of our pit of despair or anger. We say, “Yes, I know what that’s like. I’m no different.” We all have human foibles, and we are all learning. Remember that it’s easier to learn from a kind teacher than a cruel one. End your judgment by passing through the gate of compassion. You will both learn and teach better than before.