UNDERSTANDING COMPASSION AND HOW TO APPLY IT
‘LET THE ONE OF YOU THAT IS SINLESS BE THE FIRST TO THROW A STONE…’
Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter.
A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.’ Again, this short story gives a lesson about compassion.
That changes things quite a lot. Simply recognizing suffering, simply understanding injustice without feeling a desire to change it is not compassion. We all know the difference between right and wrong up to a certain degree, but it doesn’t mean we try or want to change it. It isn’t difficult to see why compassion is beneficial to our society. Imagine every person showing compassion for everyone else. That means that every single one of us would feel the need to alleviate the other’s suffering. Why then is compassion such an uncommon trait?
That consciousness or awareness of injustice and suffering is a two sided blade. As humans we have a tendency to focus on ourselves. We realize our own suffering first and that is the one we aspire to alleviate at all costs. Our own problems are always the most important and they are ‘bigger’ than everyone else’s because they are ours. We are educated from early on to want more, to put ourselves first, to be number one, to win and we are bombarded daily with examples of that selfishness, from our parents’ habits to the corrupt politicians lining their pockets at the expense of the very same people they are supposed to represent and defend.
We measure injustice based on how much it affects us and we expect everyone else to be just as concerned about it as we are. And that’s where problems start.
Now consider Jesus’ response: ‘Let the one of you that is sinless be the first to throw a stone at her’. Jesus was a Jew too. He was expected to abide by the Law given to Moses by Jehovah God. Why would Jesus then not enforce the punishment on that woman? Compassion. What the Pharisees lacked was compassion when applying the Law. Jesus knew very well that the Law had an expiring date and he was there to abolish that Law, instating a new one, based on love and compassion. He was very much aware as he later on stated to his disciples that the 2 most important commandments were to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor.
Jesus looked at that woman and didn’t see just a sinner. He used his compassion to see a human being on a wrong path, whose circumstances led her to live a life she herself might not have been happy with. He understood her suffering and didn’t feel a desire to correct her wrong behavior by punishing her. Him telling the scribes and pharisees to go ahead and condemn her if they considered themselves free from blame opened the door to self examination by those men. A simple phrase led them to understand compassion by applying it to themselves. What if they had to be judged for all their sins with the same strict measure they were applying in that woman’s case? How many of them would have had to be stoned to death? Jesus helped them realize there was more to be taken in consideration when applying the Law than what they perceived on the surface.