So often lately I’ve had these experiences that leave me thinking, “huh, you just never know”. Be it a person or an event or the history of a town, I’ve found myself surprised over and over again. I’ve learned things about people and places in my life that I never would have guessed just viewing them from the outside. The nature of both my work and what I’m studying at school obviously lend themselves to many such moments.
I read a book recently that talked about true compassion not being something that we felt for someone else, but rather the feelings that come when you see yourself as someone else. I feel so strongly about this. When you’re teaching kids about being a good person, it is so easy to slip into service for service sake, which has a connotation that one person is better than the other.
I so want to impart a different view on not only my kids but the ones that I teach. I want them to see themselves as part of this large community and we all have to work to hold one another up. I don’t want them to be people who reach down toward others but rather reach across. It sounds so hippy Communist, right? Maybe. But it’s so important to me that the people I teach feel true compassion, not superior compassion.
I feel like in order to do that, we need to look beneath the surface. We can’t know everyone’s stories, but we can try to see and understand that there is always more than meets the eye. So just because you’re serving lunch to someone who is currently homeless doesn’t mean you’re better than they. You may have more, but you aren’t more.
The only truth is we never really know another person’s truth. So, we should always treat people as if they’re just like us.
This post was inspired by the book Trapped Under the Sea: by Neil Swidey. This is the true story of what happened underneath the Boston Harbor during the great clean up of the 1990’s. I’m not usually one for non-fiction as pleasure reading but this book is so well written and the story so compelling, I found it read just like a novel and I loved every word. Talk about the ultimate story of what’s behind the scenes! You sure never know what goes on beneath the surface. Join From Left to Write on February 19th as we discuss Trapped Under the Sea As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.
I agree with your distinction between true compassion and superior compassion. There is an important difference that I see many people ignore or just forget about. How we teach empathy is part of it. Too many parents want their kids to help others, while seeing themselves as above other people whether in material things or even spiritual values. Thank you for posting this piece, made me think. Saw the link on From Left to Write.
Exactly! It’s that very thing I want to avoid with my kids, the feeling of superiority that is often linked with “service” to others. Spot on.
It’s amazing how a smile or stylish clothing can mask a person’s true feelings! I’ve had several experiences where I would prejudge a person because of their external and change my opinion once I really got to know them.
So true! The outside can look very good while the inside just needs some love.
I feel this way when I see other people parent. We don’t know the story underneath and it drives me crazy when parents are judged by what’s seen on the surface.