Wiki’s definition of compassion:
Compassion is the understanding or empathy for the suffering of others. It is regarded as a fundamental part of human love, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism —foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.
Compassion is often regarded as emotional in nature, and there is an aspect of compassion which regards a quantitative dimension, such that individual’s compassion is often given a property of “depth,” “vigour,” or “passion.” The etymology of “compassion” is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.” More virtuous than simpleempathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering. It is often, though not inevitably, the key component in what manifests in the social context as altruism. In ethical terms, the various expressions down the ages of the so-called Golden Rule often embodies by implication the principle of compassion: Do to others what you would have them do to you.
The English noun compassion, meaning to suffer together with, comes from Latin. Its prefix com- comes directly from com, an archaic version of the Latinpreposition and affix cum (= with); the -passion segment is derived from passus, past participle of the deponent verb patior, patī, passus sum. Compassion is thus related in origin, form and meaning to the English noun patient (= one who suffers), from patiens, present participle of the same patior, and is akin to theGreek verb πάσχειν (= paskhein, to suffer) and to its cognate noun πάθος (= pathos). Ranked a great virtue in numerous philosophies, compassion is considered in almost all the major religious traditions as among the greatest of virtues.
It’s such a beautiful word, and it’s also a word that holds great strength. It’s a feeling that’s not compatible with other feelings; hate, jealousy, rage, apathy…..
Yesterday’s session with Dr. Paul wasn’t as soul-wrenching as the first one was. I was able to maintain my feelings under control for the most part, and woke up this morning feeling good, and optimistic. We continued our conversation from last week, but more in depth. There was a fair amount of focus placed on my mother (focused was placed by me, not by him). I had been thinking about her a lot in the past week. Really trying to distill my feelings.
Thinking about her, and the life she led is what started the conversation about ‘compassion’. She wasn’t, isn’t, a happy woman. I don’t know that she ever was; not in her adult life anyway. She married a man she didn’t love out of necessity; to be able to leave a home she no longer wanted to be in. She moved away from everything she knew and held dear to unknown and unfamiliar lands. She was placed under a microscope by people (my dad’s family) that were as opposite to her as the moon is from the sun. I imagine there were probably some times of happiness in those early years before I was born. They were married for a good 5 or 6 years prior to becoming parents for the first time.
She fell in love with another man when I was very young, a baby. This man, I think, swept her off her feet by painting a picture that she could not resist. A good, comfortable life, passion, lust and fun. My father has never been someone one would associate with ‘lust’ or ‘passion’, despite the fact that he is very passionate and as I understand it based on his relationship with his wife of almost 40 years….very lustful too! My father’s a ‘brain man’. He’s intellectual, he’s quiet, he’s a pacifist. The man that my mother fell in love with is a man of action, a knuckle-dragger, the epitome of the ‘macho man’ so many women aspire to be with. Well, she got him, and from the moment that she ‘got’ him, life changed for her.
He was (is?) not a good man. He drank to excess, he was violent, he was a jealous man, he was a cheating man, he was an unmovable man. Their first fight, as has been told to me, was at the lobby of a hotel in Rio de Janeiro where we moved to right after they got married. When asked to sign the guest registry, my mother signed with her previous married name. Considering she’d had that name for 8 years (thereabouts) it’s not entirely surprising. Her husband flew into a rage over it. She still recalled it years later. It must have been a horrible day.
Many would look at my mother and say that she led a good life. She had everything anyone could ever want; materially. A beautiful home, beautiful things, nice cars, nice clothes, country clubs, jewelry, travel, two healthy daughters, status…..The unseen things are the things she never had; love, companionship, trust, peace…..These things evaded her as her partner in life drank his way through affairs, and violent rages at home against me, against my mother, and at times against his own daughter. Yelling, screaming, broken glass, thrown furniture, frightened children….I can’t imagine living like that for all the time she did.
I’m not sure what brought my mother joy. I don’t know what made her happy. In thinking about that, and about how I imagine she struggled with her own demons of depression, I found myself thinking of her with compassion. I feel sorry for her, and I feel sorry for the fact that she never let me be her friend.
I don’t have to forgive her. I don’t have to accept how she treated me, but I can feel compassion and sadness for her.