Compassion is a One Way Street

Posted on March 22, 2012
Updated June 28, 2018

I think our world will soon bifurcate. People who feel for others will continually associate more and more with empathy and compassion.

Meet hypothetical Sarah.

She comes from a middle class rural background. Her family is quite conservative. Having gone to university in the city and been exposed to more progressive ideas, she has experimented with vegetarianism and liked it. But there’s a problem. She’s devoutly christian and where she comes from, hetrosexism is tightly intertwined with religion. As a new vegetarian, she meets many people who are also gay marriage activists or gay themselves. Although she tries to accept them, she dislikes having to question her familie’s culture and her own faith.

One day she declines an invitation to a gay rights march. When her friend asks her why, she says she isn’t totally comfortable with the idea of gay marriage. She isn’t able to give a decent reason, it’s just “who she is.”

This embarassment causes Sarah to interact less with her vegetarian friends and find people with similar backgrounds. Although she continues to be vegetarian for a while, eventually she just feels to different from those around her, and reverts to an omnivorous diet.

It happens like this

In our connected world we talk. When the seed of compassion pushes you to change one aspect of your life, you automatically start to connet with others who live with the same change, for support and strength.

Those people will be other compassionate empathetic people on their own journey from the old to the new. Many will have changed other aspects of their life, and thus their changes will influence you as you interact.

You’ll question your own ways and eventually choose compassion, because really, it’s a one way street. You like the feeling of change, you like the new people and lifestyle. It feels good.

But for others, if they ever manage a single change away from their upbringing, it might play out differently. Once they’ve made their original change and started interacting with new people, they may instead feel threatened and seek to defend their encultured ideas.

They’ll lessen their interaction with compassionate progressive people because it will feel challenging. Compassion is a one way street, and they’re not ready to go with the flow.

With their support base dwindling, the change they have made will likely be undone as the acceptance hungry ego seeks other homes. Their compassion will remain dormant, overpowered by the momentum of social tradition.

Compassion is a one-way street

These are black and white examples. I think the many small ways each of us change our lifestyle will eventually lead into the one way street of compassion, or the rejection of compassion. People will settle where they best belong, like particles in murky water. It will continue generation from generation, as values are encluturated, and the process starts again from where it left off.

I see evidence for this more and more, espeically on the stage. The conservative, or ‘right,’ which so often plays to selfishness and tribalism, is becoming more extreme. The progressive, or ‘left’ is opening up, replacing old ideologies with practicalities founded in empathy and a positive anthropology.

I get a sense that the bifurcation is speeding up, perhaps approaching splitting point. As more and more fringe issues enter public consciousness in my own very conservative country, I feel hopeful.

Truly I beleive that while some will get there sooner, most people are destined for the road of compassion.