How Compassion Fuels the Resistance


Edu Bayer for The New York Times, August 14 2017

I don’t believe it could possibly be true, what with the Muslim ban, withdrawal from the Paris Accord, Russia, and the daily, inflammatory, bald-faced lies (etc, etc, etc), but Trump’s remarks at yesterday’s press conference have made me feel sicker and more pessimistic about the future than since the beginning of his term. This is the reason for my fear, anger, and tears on election night last year. This moment, right here, caught in the middle of Civil War II and WWIII.

Trump was right in one respect yesterday when he said that there are two sides to a story. There is a story of hatred and bigotry on one side and there is a story of fierce compassion and fighting against injustice on the other. But even those of us on the right side, whose hearts have been broken over and over again, we think: how could we possibly cultivate compassionate when we feel so sad and angry? And should we even?

“So many times people have approached me and said something along the lines of, ‘I don’t know about developing greater love and compassion. Surely that will consign me to only saying ‘yes’/ refusing to take a stand/ letting other people be treated unjustly/ being a wimp.'”

So how do we deal with our outrage? It is indeed natural to be outraged in the face of injustice or cruelty. But when anger becomes a steady presence, it narrows our options, perceptions and possibilities. It burns us up. Unfortunately, many of us are taught to see non-aggression, and the resistance to us-vs.-them thinking, as passivity, weakness, or delusional. In fact, it is an act of courage to step outside our familiar reaction patterns to discover approaches that can shift the dynamic we face.

It’s possible to feel outrage when it arises without it becoming our overriding motivation for seeking change. We can learn the art of fierce compassion — redefining strength, deconstructing isolation and renewing a sense of community, practicing letting go of rigid us-vs.-them thinking — while cultivating power and clarity in response to difficult situations. Love and compassion don’t at all have to make us weak, or lead us to losing discernment and vision. We just have to learn how to find them. And see, in truth, what they bring us.

Sharon Salzberg

If this is strikes a chord, then please read this talk from Sharon and Rev. angel Kyoda williams, A Guide for Spiritual Activists

As for the other side (the side of racist Nazi shitheads, that is), one tenet of the Buddhist teaching on anger is that it is a symptom of weakness and, actually, stupidity (they say “lack of awareness,” but I’m calling a spade a fucking spade).

“If there are sound reasons or bases for the points you demand, then there is no need to use violence. On the other hand, when there is no sound reason that concessions should be made to you but mainly your own desire, then reason cannot work and you have to rely on force. Thus, using force is not a sign of strength but rather a sign of weakness. Even in daily human contact, if we talk seriously, using reasons, there is no need to feel anger. We can argue the points. When we fail to prove with reason, then anger comes. When reason ends, then anger begins. Therefore, anger is a sign of weakness.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I have to believe that compassion is what fuels the resistance. It gives us the strength to defend what is right. It unites us. It inspires us into action and to stand up for each other, for our friends and neighbors, and also for those who seem may different from us on the surface, but who we know have the same desires as we do: to lead lives free from danger, suffering, pain, and struggle.


5 thoughts on “How Compassion Fuels the Resistance

  1. Unfortunately, I think anger and hatred/aversion fuel the resistance. I see have seen it and was a little disheartened. Hopefully your message can be part of a transformation. Maybe calling people rude names does not fall in line with this?

    • Thanks for your comments and for sharing your perspective. Incidentally, I’m trying to cultivate right speech but what can I say it’s a lifelong process. 😛

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