It’s amazing how easy it is to become detached from the world around us, and desensitized to all the suffering in the world: terrorist attacks, murders, mistreatment of children, natural disasters, and the list goes on. The worst part is that the worse the situation gets, often the less we care.
Joseph Stalin’s chilling words come to mind: “One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.” Bloody hell, that’s cold! Sadly, it’s also true.
We feel more deeply over the loss of one life (look at the #BlackLivesMatter movement) than we do over thousands or hundreds of thousands of deaths (how long did people care about Haiti, New Orleans, or any other disaster-struck place?). But even then, we’re finding it harder and harder to bring ourselves to care about those “one life’s”. The fact that we see news stories, articles, and blog posts about death every day is making it difficult to find the emotional currency to spend on these random strangers.
I was reading an article on Psychology Today that talked about this desensitization and losing our sense of humanity. I loved the way they summed up the ways we can cling to our humanity no matter how bad things get:
“The first step is to recognize that we like ourselves better when in touch with our more humane emotions.”
We feel good about ourselves when we do good things, but we feel terrible when we do bad things. That’s a VERY clear indication of which we should be doing!
“Have self-compassion. Self-compassion is sympathy for one’s hardship or suffering, with a motivation to heal, improve, and repair.”
That’s not compassion for YOUR hardship or suffering, but it means having a motivation to help others in order to enhance our sense of self. By helping others, we increase our respect for their dignity, which in turn is self-empowering.
Simple, succinct, and something to think about next time you’re faced with the chance to show compassion. You may not be able to summon up the emotion to care about the story you see on TV, but you definitely can do something next time you come across someone asking for help. Give a few dollars to that disabled vet, buy the homeless man a lunch, offer to carry someone’s groceries, or just lend a listening ear. It makes the world a better place, and it makes YOU a better person!