“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
― Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
To me, the world needs one thing more than any other…compassion. So what does compassion mean? The root of compassion means “to suffer with”. It’s a verb; it is action.
If we think about “suffering with” someone, does that mean we have to feel everything they feel in order to really understand what they are going through? Does it mean that we are present and willing to hold their experience in our hands and heart, knowing that it has meaning for them? Is it the realization that their story could be our story – that we are vulnerable to the same experience?
How does the act of compassion play itself out when the person has done something horrible, depraved? How do we show compassion, or do we? How does accountability fit in with the bad behavior, choices, etc?
One thing I see repeatedly in the world (at the Crisis Center, in Social Media, and in daily conversations) is a lack of compassion and in fact, a blaming, and judgmental culture. Part of our humanity and a way to separate ourselves from someone else’s problems is to point the finger making comments like, “I would never allow that…”, “She/he deserves exactly what they got…”, “He should die for what he did…”. We fail to dive into how the person got where they are, what has happened that brought them to this place? When we dive in to a person’s history, their story, their pain and/or how they have caused pain, we realize that it could be me; I could be the victim – I could be the perpetrator.
As we work with victims of domestic violence, it is important to remember that the perpetrator, the one who committed these horrible acts of violence using power and control was 70 times more likely to be raised in a home where there was domestic violence. That perpetrator was a child who witnessed or was a victim of that violence, lived in that fear and had absolutely no power or control over what they endured or were exposed to.
How do we step into their shoes and work through the healing process, to ultimately realize the end of the cycle of abuse? By empowering the victim, facilitating the healing process, and advocating for healing for the perpetrator, we can integrate compassion into our everyday work; work that can ultimately make the world, and our own communities, a safer, happier, and more compassionate place for everyone.