Letter: Compassion, now more than ever
To the editor, "Exhibiting genuine compassion for others can be transforming for us, as well as for those around us. We do not always have to agree. But if we can convey a respect for a differing view, then we can begin to turn down the heat and ...
To the editor,
"Exhibiting genuine compassion for others can be transforming for us, as well as for those around us. We do not always have to agree. But if we can convey a respect for a differing view, then we can begin to turn down the heat and build relationships, not destroy them." - Richard W. Story
Story's words are begging to be heard today in our hyper-partisan nation. We are not exhibiting genuine compassion for one another. We are not listening to each other let alone building relationships. As a mental health professional for the past seven years, I've encountered all manner of communication breakdown. I've seen dialogue collapse between siblings, parents and their children, coworkers, and family systems.
What worries me is that I see the signs of communication breakdown beginning to corrode the fabric of decency and civil discourse on which our community-our very nation-rests. We've become a nation of "others" instead of a nation of interdependent people. When we "otherize" someone we separate ourselves from them based on some characteristic that we perceive as important. With the person separated from ourselves and our tribe, we begin to see them as completely different, strangers, invaders, until finally they are less than human. What we need now more than ever is to begin to see our brothers and sisters in our communities as more human, not less.
Civil discourse is communication meant to enhance understanding and foster peaceful, calm, rational relationships between individuals who have different opinions on important subjects. Individuals engaged in civil discourse will avoid hostility, purposeful antagonism, and the use of excessive persuasion. They will strive for active, intentional understanding of the thoughts, values and beliefs of the other party. It requires not only allowing another to coexist and speak, but proactive and intentional use of understanding and compassion. Civil discourse is not always easy, but it is worth it as connection and compassion are fostered through civil discourse. Connection and compassion are the cornerstones of a life well-lived and a just society.
Matthew R. Rozzi