Can Compassion Be Taught?


Compassion is a luxury. - Seno Gumira

Can you teach a man to be kind to others in need?

If it were a homeless refugee, his children are hungry, while everyone else is sick and dying, it would not be realistic to expect compassion as one of his top fortes.

Maybe we can't teach compassion to a grown man even if we secured all of his needs. That's just too many layers of negative experiences to unlearn in order for compassion to stick.

We might, though, have a better chance in saving his son.

Say that the poor man's son was adopted by a upper-middleclass family, took him into an FDA-approved home, fed him well, played smart games with him and encouraged his learning according to his natural aptitudes.

Say that his adoptive parents are open to every kind of sexuality, showered him with enough love and none of the abuse, sheltered him from body image insecurities and peer-to-peer bullying, applied everything that doctor Spock advised and then some.

Say that the boy grows into a fine young man, married his true love, secured his job and the future of his children, and a mortgage fully paid. Occasionally, he'll go to his home country, inject himself with enough schadenfruede to remember to be grateful for all the goodness that he's had and then maybe, if he is naturally athletic, ages gracefully and can afford comfortable retirement and botox, is when we see glimpses of the compassionate man in him.

Alternately, we can celebrate compassion when it occurs and still understand and forgive the man who fails to respond compassionately to the needs of others; knowing that nobody could go through life unscratched.

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