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What is the harm in being compassionate?

ThePlayDrive

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What is the harm in being compassionate? This is a question that I've had in the back (and sometimes front) of my mind since I heard a gay woman tell the story of how, rather than being angry with her parents for reacting negatively to her sexuality, she approached them with understanding and compassion. From what I remember, she said that she knew it was hard for them to deal with having their entire worldview and dreams for her challenged and essentially destroyed in one minute, so she took their condemnation and responded with love and patience.

Even though I can understand the logic behind that response, I still find the woman's actions remarkable because I understand the logic behind mercilessness as well and mercilessness is much easier to delve into than compassion. Ultimately, I'm wondering what the harm is in being compassionate to those who have completely different views than us, even views that are harmful? I suspect that we can solve the problems that those harmful beliefs cause while being kind to those that have them, but most of us don't choose that route. We choose to demonize and humiliate and rebuke. Why? And should we change?
 

lizzie

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There is absolutely no harm in it. Why would you suppose otherwise? I personally have the same level of compassion for the rich that I do for the poor, because everyone is human, with human problems, and human pain. Money, fame, or notariety do not take away one's humanity, and if you view people through the eyes of what they have, rather than what they are, and learn to identify with everyone, regardless of how they differ from you, you will always have an emptiness that cannot be filled, and you will always feel that you've been cheated in some way. Learn to love the person, rather than the image.
 

MaggieD

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What is the harm in being compassionate? This is a question that I've had in the back (and sometimes front) of my mind since I heard a gay woman tell the story of how, rather than being angry with her parents for reacting negatively to her sexuality, she approached them with understanding and compassion. From what I remember, she said that she knew it was hard for them to deal with having their entire worldview and dreams for her challenged and essentially destroyed in one minute, so she took their condemnation and responded with love and patience.

Even though I can understand the logic behind that response, I still find the woman's actions remarkable because I understand the logic behind mercilessness as well and mercilessness is much easier to delve into than compassion. Ultimately, I'm wondering what the harm is in being compassionate to those who have completely different views than us, even views that are harmful? I suspect that we can solve the problems that those harmful beliefs cause while being kind to those that have them, but most of us don't choose that route. We choose to demonize and humiliate and rebuke. Why? And should we change?
I don't really find the woman's actions/reactions that remarkable. Her thoughts about her parents are exactly on target. She also understood that her parents loved her...that their reaction came from that love...and was emotionally healthy enough to realize the way into their hearts was through understanding and compassion.

The people I know don't demonize, humiliate and rebuke those they disagree with/disapprove of. You may be hanging with the wrong crowd.

Well, there is one guy. He's 85 years old and a jackass. Ha!
 

CriticalThought

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There can be harm. Some individuals see compassion as weakness to be exploited. Compassion in that case can be enabling. I can feel great compassion for a criminal or an addict, but if I don't take a stand against their behavior then I will likely become their next victim.

Compassion can also be interpreted as self righteousness. In that case, it may further solidify a person within their current position.

Compassion may lower your defenses and make you vulnerable to attack.

Compassion may just make you compliant to oppression. Instead of standing up to the oppressor, you nonviolently protest and hope the oppressor will eventually feel bad about oppressing you and will stop.

A person may act in a manner that simply does not deserve compassion. Forgoing compassion allows you to quickly act to stamp out that individual, whereas being compassionate may lead to greater leniency than they deserve and which would deny considerable compassion to their victims.

Compassion may lead you coddle people rather than to empower them, and thereby deny them their healthy amount of responsibility in taking initiative to improve their own existence.
 

Velvet Elvis

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We should have compassion for the helpless.
We should NOT have compassion for the clueless.

The problem is...not as many people as you think are truly "helpless." "Helpless" is a crippled veteran who needs assistance because he is not able-bodied to get a job for himself. "Clueless" is a 19-year old, high school dropout, single mother of two who won't get a job because the guv'mint gives her more money if she stays home.
 

ThePlayDrive

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There can be harm. Some individuals see compassion as weakness to be exploited. Compassion in that case can be enabling. I can feel great compassion for a criminal or an addict, but if I don't take a stand against their behavior then I will likely become their next victim.

Compassion can also be interpreted as self righteousness. In that case, it may further solidify a person within their current position.

Compassion may lower your defenses and make you vulnerable to attack.

Compassion may just make you compliant to oppression. Instead of standing up to the oppressor, you nonviolently protest and hope the oppressor will eventually feel bad about oppressing you and will stop.

A person may act in a manner that simply does not deserve compassion. Forgoing compassion allows you to quickly act to stamp out that individual, whereas being compassionate may lead to greater leniency than they deserve and which would deny considerable compassion to their victims.

Compassion may lead you coddle people rather than to empower them, and thereby deny them their healthy amount of responsibility in taking initiative to improve their own existence.
Fair points. My criticism is that you've illustrated how one can poorly use compassion rather than how compassion, in and of itself, does harm. For example, by using emotional/social intelligence, one can address people with compassion while not appearing self-righteous. Similarly, one can have compassion for their oppressor while fighting against them or have compassion for someone without coddling them. Ultimately, it seems as if you're equating compassion with weakness when they aren't the same thing.

Even so, your post does make me wonder if one can be compassionate and hurt others at the same time. I imagine that one can have compassion for someone who is a treat to them, but still physically or verbally attack them out of other emotions or out of a seeming need to. On the other hand, a part of me thinks that compassion and physical/verbal violence are mutually exclusive.
 

ThePlayDrive

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We should have compassion for the helpless.
We should NOT have compassion for the clueless.

The problem is...not as many people as you think are truly "helpless." "Helpless" is a crippled veteran who needs assistance because he is not able-bodied to get a job for himself. "Clueless" is a 19-year old, high school dropout, single mother of two who won't get a job because the guv'mint gives her more money if she stays home.
What harm comes from being compassionate to the 19 year old? Whether your compassionate to her or not, you can devise policies or encourage her to enter programs that will help her stand on her own two feet. It seems that a lack of compassion doesn't do anything practical in that case.
 

Velvet Elvis

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What harm comes from being compassionate to the 19 year old? Whether your compassionate to her or not, you can devise policies or encourage her to enter programs that will help her stand on her own two feet. It seems that a lack of compassion doesn't do anything practical in that case.
When exactly do you draw the line between "shoulder her burden" and "let her lay in the bed she made for herself?" Tell me one person in this country who's not been told the problems of teen pregnancy? Tell me one person who's ever said "dropping out of high school is a great career move!" The 19-year old (in our example) has exhibited zero self-responsibility (and zero self-control). There comes a time when people have to learn to accept the consequences for their poor life choices.

You know, if I gave my dog a cookie every time she asked for one, she'd never stop asking. In fact...she'd probably stop eating her regular food because she'd have been conditioned to knowing how to get the more favorable of the two items. Human beings are not so intelligent as to not fall into (or take advantage of) that same conditioning.
 

Homer.

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We should have compassion for the helpless.
We should NOT have compassion for the clueless.

The problem is...not as many people as you think are truly "helpless." "Helpless" is a crippled veteran who needs assistance because he is not able-bodied to get a job for himself. "Clueless" is a 19-year old, high school dropout, single mother of two who won't get a job because the guv'mint gives her more money if she stays home.
Why should we have compassion for the helpless? A crippled veteran should not get any government assistance paid for by my money. He chose to join the army, knew the risks. If he can't find a job, tough.

Compassion is for the weak minded.
 

Velvet Elvis

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Why should we have compassion for the helpless? A crippled veteran should not get any government assistance paid for by my money. He chose to join the army, knew the risks. If he can't find a job, tough.

Compassion is for the weak minded.
I disagree. Their sacrifices go well beyond what normal citizens are expected.

It's one thing to shell out money to an unmarried, unskilled mother of 4 who can't keep her legs closed, but it's another to support those who served for their country. This is one area where compassion has its gray areas.
 

AliHajiSheik

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Compassion is a personal choice and should not be expected of others.
 

MaggieD

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Why should we have compassion for the helpless? A crippled veteran should not get any government assistance paid for by my money. He chose to join the army, knew the risks. If he can't find a job, tough.

Compassion is for the weak minded.
Compassion is the ability to have empathy for others. Those who don't have compassion are sociopaths.
 

Homer.

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Compassion is the ability to have empathy for others. Those who don't have compassion are sociopaths.
compassion results in altruism, which is evil (you might want to read some Ayn Rand). It also weakens the human gene pool as the weak are not left to die as would happen in nature.
 

Homer.

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I disagree. Their sacrifices go well beyond what normal citizens are expected.

It's one thing to shell out money to an unmarried, unskilled mother of 4 who can't keep her legs closed, but it's another to support those who served for their country. This is one area where compassion has its gray areas.
Their sacrifices were a result of their own choice. Now they are crippled, they are of no further use to me as soldiers (if they ever were), and I should not be expected to pay for their upkeep. Tax is theft, no matter who receives the money.
 

MaggieD

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compassion results in altruism, which is evil (you might want to read some Ayn Rand). It also weakens the human gene pool as the weak are not left to die as would happen in nature.
Ayn Rand's definition of altruism:

What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.
The rest of the world's definition of altruism:

Unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others
I'll take Door #2.
 

Meathead

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There is nothing wrong with compassion. There is something repulsive about its being demanded in fits of self-righteousness.
 

Neomalthusian

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Anyone smell a liberal posing as a libertarian? We've seen far too many of mischaracterizations of libertarians by liberals to fall for your act for long, Homer.

As to the OP, compassion per se is not harmful, but can be in some instances, if it leads to producing a reward in response to an undesired behavior. Give a tantruming kid a candy bar? Give a broke heroin addict $50?

Compassion is good to the extent that it fosters strong symbiotic relationships that help both parties, and bad to the extent that it enables self-destructive decisions and teaches people to act dependent and helpless in order to obtain a reward.
 

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Anyone smell a liberal posing as a libertarian? We've seen far too many of mischaracterizations of libertarians by liberals to fall for your act for long, Homer.

As to the OP, compassion per se is not harmful, but can be in some instances, if it leads to producing a reward in response to an undesired behavior. Give a tantruming kid a candy bar? Give a broke heroin addict $50?

Compassion is good to the extent that it fosters strong symbiotic relationships that help both parties, and bad to the extent that it enables self-destructive decisions and teaches people to act dependent and helpless in order to obtain a reward.
There is a total 180 juxtaposition between compassionate help and enabling. Enablers are, as we all know, part of the problem -- not anywhere close to the solution.
 

00timh

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There is a total 180 juxtaposition between compassionate help and enabling. Enablers are, as we all know, part of the problem -- not anywhere close to the solution.
Great point! Enabling is not even the same as being compassionate. I do see where it can be confused as such, even by the enablers themselves. But enablers take what could be compassion and take on the person's problems and makes them their own. That process only weakens the enabler and further harms those that are being enabled by greasing the slide to their fall.
 

Douglas_Smith

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Compassion is just a complex series of emotions. Do you feel bad for the veteran? Do you feel bad for the 19 year old? That is for you to decide. But which side of compassion does the most good? The side that says we will help you or the side that says we will help for a short time but you have to do this and this and this in order to get the help.
 

Neomalthusian

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There is a total 180 juxtaposition between compassionate help and enabling. Enablers are, as we all know, part of the problem -- not anywhere close to the solution.
But we don't all know, though. We can't even agree with one another about what enables vs. what "helps."
 

Velvet Elvis

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But we don't all know, though. We can't even agree with one another about what enables vs. what "helps."
Unemployment insurance for 90 days helps.
Unemployment insurance repeatedly extended for 360 days enables. Lots of folks saw/see it as a free year's vacation.
 

Neomalthusian

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Unemployment insurance for 90 days helps.
Unemployment insurance repeatedly extended for 360 days enables. Lots of folks saw/see it as a free year's vacation.
Some see any amount of unemployment "insurance" as enabling people's imprudence. Why bother living below our means and saving for a rainy day when we can call for immediate "assistance" or "insurance" in the event of a rainy day?
 

KevinKohler

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There is no harm in compassion, by itself. Only the POTENTIAL for harm.


Like ALL human emotions, compassion has the side affect of clouding our judgment. This can cause us to do very irrational, on sometimes, very harmful things, to either ourselves, or to others.
 
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