Tag Archives: empathy

TRECK: The Journey toward Redemptive Love

On Saturday, May 19th, at the wedding for Britain’s Prince Harry and American Actress Meghan Markle, Bishop Michael Curry gave a meaningful and uplifting sermon about the redemptive power of love. I thoroughly enjoyed the sermon and the exuberance with which Bishop Curry gave it. And it has had me reflecting upon the principles of tolerance, respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness – which together make the acronym TRECK. If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I’ve been writing for months about how I believe that this particular set of principles could help set our world right if we all applied them towards all people.

First, Bishop Curry’s sermon reminded me of how I grappled with the concept of love and whether or not to include it in TRECK. In a way, I did include it, because the way that I think of kindness is the same as the way that the Dalai Lama talks about kindness, as in Loving Kindness. I believe that the type of kindness we should give to one another is a type of deep, caring kindness, based upon love.

Second, and most importantly, I believe that through reaching out to one another with tolerance, respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness, we put ourselves on the path to true and abiding love. This is the kind of redemptive love that Curry is promoting. I believe that true love needs to come from somewhere and be based upon something. Tolerance, respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness can all be contained within love, but true love, healthy love, lasting love, cannot exist without these five elements.

Yes, the world needs love. But love needs a foundation. It needs to be built upon something. And that thing is TRECK.

Can there be love without tolerance? Bigotry will surely stand in the way of love. We must first learn to see all people as equal in order to truly love them.

Can there be love without respect? Love without respect is not truly love at all. Love that is built without mutual respect will quickly erode and fall away.

Can there be love without empathy? Certainly we must learn to see through the eyes of another and understand things from their perspective if we are going to be able to love them.

Can there be love without compassion? Caring deeply for the pain of others can sprout into love. But love without deep regard for the suffering of another is hollow and meaningless.

Can there be love without kindness? Cruelty in the name of love is not really love at all. Certainly love must be kind in order to be pure and uplifting. Love and kindness go hand-in-hand.

So, in the end, if there is to be love, then there must be tolerance, respect, empathy, compassion and kindness. We must learn to have global TRECK for all people if we are to love them. So, keep practicing the principles of TRECK and surely we can achieve a truly redemptive and lasting love.

Words Matter: Immigrants Are Not “Animals”

Yesterday, during an immigration roundtable at the White House, President Trump referred to certain undocumented immigrants as “animals.” Specifically, he said, “These aren’t people. These are animals.” He said this in reference to specific undocumented immigrants the government is working to expel from the country whom he feels are particularly bad people. He said, “…you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are.”

My problem with Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is that it is another in a growing list of ways he has disparaged immigrants and people of color since announcing his bid for the presidency. By calling a select group of undocumented immigrants “animals” he is acting to further create an us vs. them mentality in the American people toward undocumented immigrants and people of Latin descent. He is fomenting rage toward a class of people who are already having a hard time being seen as whole, worthy, and just people by some Americans.

I suppose one could argue that the President was merely playing to his base, as many who voted to put him in office probably already hold these views toward many undocumented immigrants. But the fact remains, our President’s rhetoric toward immigrants and people of color is bad and is not improving. For me, this comes down to respect. Our President seems to lack a proper amount of respect for many people in the world – be they American citizens of citizens of South American countries, South African countries, or others.

Once again, I am calling upon President Trump to cultivate within himself respect for all people – regardless of race, skin color, sexual orientation, gender, or religion. It is never too late to change. Mr. Trump needs to learn to empathize with people who are different than himself, just as we all need to develop our ability to do this.

Perhaps President Trump is providing us all with a learning opportunity. We all can learn to grow our tolerance, respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness towards all people, especially those who are different from us. In the end we are all human beings. We all have essentially the same needs and desires.

Immigrants to the United States, regardless of legal status, come here seeking what all human beings desire – safety, security, the basic necessities of life, and the opportunity to become their best expressions of themselves. We are all human. We all desire to be loved, accepted, and respected.

Let’s all work to make this a nation and a world we can be proud of. Let’s all strive to treat one another with tolerance, respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness.

In Changing Hearts and Minds, Are The Golden Rule and Altruism Enough?

Why do you treat others well? Is it because you hope they will treat you the same way in return (the Golden Rule) or is it simply because you believe that others deserve to be treated well (altruism)? Personally, I think either or both reasons are valid and justifiable.

I often find myself wondering how I can “sell” my idea of RECK to the world. I believe deep within my core that if everyone in the world treated everyone else in the world with Respect, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness, then we could create significant change for the betterment of the planet and future generations. Think of it: a world without war and free of violence and terror.

It might seem impossible, but I believe it is within our reach. We just need people to truly embrace the principles of RECK and behave accordingly. It’s a simple, but hard. Easy to describe, but difficult to adhere to on a daily basis. Still, I’m hopeful for a brighter future and I feel like RECK can help us get there.

But how do I convince others that I’m right? For me, it’s a simple matter of altruism. I believe that we all should be unselfishly concerned for the welfare of others. So, I work very hard to treat everyone with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. It can be challenging at times, but for me it’s an important day-to-day and minute-to-minute practice.

I get the feeling that many people agree with me – especially when referring to people whom they love. But what about our enemies? Personally, I try to have none. But there are certainly people in this world who have enemies and how do I convince those people to act toward their enemies with RECK? Altruism might not be enough to sell them on it. And if they treat their enemies with RECK with the hope of being treated the same way in return, there is a high degree of likelihood that they will not get the same treatment in return… certainly not right away.

So what then? Where does that leave me? How do I sell my magical elixir to the not-so-easily convinced? I suppose I could cite scientific studies or quote the Dalai Lama, but even that might not do the trick. I need to change hearts and minds. This is serious business. Should I become a minister and spend my life preaching RECK as if it were my gospel? Do I become a televangelist for RECK? Should I give up all of my worldly possessions and roam the earth working to spread my message?

What do you think?

Imagine All the People Living Life in Peace

In John Lennon’s famous song “Imagine” there is the line, “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” That line used to make my heart ache, because it seemed so far off, so impossible. This past September, however, I proposed a new philosophy – one based upon mutual acceptance and understanding. It is comprised of four key components. They are respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness, or RECK for short. Since that time, Lennon’s classic line has taken on a new sense of hopefulness for me.

Now, each time I hear, think, or sing that line my mind opens to the possibilities of what RECK could do if I were able to spread my message and have others embrace the philosophy. It’s corny, I know, but I am hopeful. It fills me with joy, excitement, and anticipation in a way that nothing has for a very long time. And I don’t say these words lightly. After all, I have spent that past 12 ½ years trying to make the world a more compassionate place through my nonprofit Century of Compassion. And I spent several years as a student of compassion before that.

Over those years, both through Century of Compassion and before, I dreamt of a more compassionate and caring world. However, I often sensed that Compassion alone wasn’t going to be enough to get us there. There needed to be more. Many times, I would find myself telling people that they must also have respect for others and must first feel empathy before they could achieve compassion. Even the Dalai Lama himself preaches a doctrine of loving-kindness beyond mere compassion.

I spent most of 2017 feeling that Century of Compassion just wasn’t cutting it for me anymore. I felt a substantial urge to both expand and hone my philosophy to include these elements I so often called upon in addition to compassion. It was from this contemplation that RECK was forged.

One happy accident with RECK is that reck is a word unto itself. It already existed. Its definition is “to have care, concern, or regard.” It’s the base word for words like reckon and reckless. I delight in the fact that my word that stands for “respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness” also means “to have care, concern, or regard.”

Through RECK we can put an end to much of the world’s plight once and for all. We will be able to encourage people to talk out their problems and work out their differences. If everyone treated one another with RECK, there would finally be no more war, murder, or genocide, because you can’t harm someone you respect, have empathy and compassion for, and treat with kindness.

True peace and lasting peace is possible. Each of us can make a difference. We really can change the world.

So, let’s have RECK for one another, everyone! And all the people can be living life in peace.

In the Wake of Vegas Tragedy, Reach Out with Love

Late last night there was another mass shooting in the United States. This time on the Las Vegas Strip. The Washington Post reports this morning that this is now “the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.” Over 50 are dead. More than 400 are injured. It’s tragic. It’s senseless. It needs to stop.

Often, in the wake of such tragedies, I want to know why it happened. What were the gunman’s motives? What would motivate such a heinous act? Over time, I have concluded that even when there is an explanation, there is never a justification. No motive could justify such a horrific act.

And when there is an explanation that sheds light on such a tragedy, at its root is always the same set of ingredients: anger, hatred, rage. Regardless of who acted and in what way to create such an event, whether the person acted alone or as part of a larger network of terror, the root cause is always anger, hatred, and rage.

So, then, we must combat these problems, and the best way to do that is to act out in love. We all must do what we can to honor and respect life, to empathize with and love one another, and to increase the amplitude of love, compassion, and kindness in our world.

There is only one true hope for humanity, and that is to work with all our might to come to a greater understanding about one another, to try harder to get along with each other, and be compassionate toward one another to such a degree that we could not possibly harm one another.

I said it on Friday in this blog and I will repeat it again today in the wake of this awful tragedy. We must act out with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. We must love one another.

So, this is my appeal to you, today. Do everything you can to fill this world with love. Pull your loved ones close. Reach out with kindness to a stranger. Help dissolve the anger that is fomenting in this world. Be the change you want to see in the world. We can make a difference. We will turn this tide. Love will win.

“RECK” – One Word to Save the World

We live in challenging times. Public discord is on the rise. Hate groups that used to lurk in the shadows are pushing their way into the mainstream. Political and ideological differences that have separated us for years are splitting us farther and farther apart. America, it appears, is beginning to unravel at the seams – and globally things don’t look much better. What can we as ordinary individuals do to make a difference? How do we turn this tide?

For nearly 20 years, I have been a student of compassion. I have even written about it before in this blog. I believe in the transformative power of compassion to improve lives and create a more loving and tolerant society. Over time, I’ve come to see that when combined with a few other key ingredients, it can be used to help create a more civil and just society. I believe that the way we treat one another matters. In both large and small ways, the way we view and interact with each other makes a difference in how our societies function and how the world moves.

In order to create a more civil society – one rooted in equality and valuing the life of every person – there are four vital ingredients. If everyone from the average citizen through heads of state would think of and interact with one another using these four important principles, we could reshape the world into one comprised of peace and mutual understanding.

These principles are:
Respect
Empathy
Compassion
Kindness

Each principle builds upon the previous one so that when taken in order they create a powerful force for good.

First, we need to start from a place of respect. We must commit ourselves to valuing the worth and dignity of each individual being. Mutual respect lays a foundation upon which we can build mutual understanding. Without respect, people’s voices cannot be heard. When we work to respect one another, we can achieve tolerance and even acceptance of one another.

Next, we must strive for empathy. By laboring to put ourselves in the shoes of “the other,” we can develop real connection that simply is not possible when we distance ourselves from one another. Empathy is the spark that ignites the flame of compassion.

This brings us to compassion. To live is to suffer. When we connect with the suffering that each of us experiences, it motivates us to want to relieve that suffering. And, when we feel deep compassion for each other’s suffering, it is not possible for us to want to hurt one another.

Finally, there is kindness. When we treat each other with mutual kindness great things are possible. In time, trust develops out of kindness as well as genuine care and concern.

When combined, these principles create a single word: RECK.

Applied universally, this one word could save the world.

Respect, Empathy, Compassion, Kindness.

Make them your mantra. Make them your prayer. Make them your practice.

You’ll be surprised how quickly they can change your life and the world around you.

The concept is simple. The practice is hard. The results make it all worthwhile.

Give it a try and report back. I welcome your feedback.

How Do We Fix a Broken World? The Answer is Simple but Not Easy

These are troubling times. Each week, it seems, and several times last week, there was news of another violent act with tragic consequences. Time and time again in conversations and on social media, I hear/see the same question repeated:

“How do we fix this?”

There is an answer. It is not complex, but it is hard and we would each need to choose it and then keep choosing it over and over again every minute of every day until we begin to chip away at the ugliness that seems to be gripping society.

It’s as simple as a single word: Compassion.

It might seem overly simplistic. Can one little word turn around a world hanging on the brink of chaos?

Yes. Compassion is not just a word; it is an action. It is a spark of inner transformation. And in world gripped by rage, vitriol, and violence, it is an act of revolution.

Compassion is the sensing of another’s suffering combined with an urge to relieve it. You have to grow your sense of compassion to the point that you want to cure the suffering of others so badly that you could not possibly cause another person suffering.

If we are ever going to stop seeing one another as “the other” then we need to begin to accept the suffering of one another as our own. You need to know deep down in your gut that when you hurt someone else you hurt yourself.

Where does compassion start? With empathy.

A society lacking empathy is destined to be ripped apart at the seams. Every little difference that divides us will tear at the fabric of our peace. We see that division and tearing happening now all round us. We sense it occurring as we distance ourselves from people who see the world differently than we do. This must change.

We must put ourselves into the place of others and try to imagine how we would feel in their position. The more we can see others as being like us, the greater empathy we will feel with them. The greater our empathy, the greater our compassion.

Can compassion stop a violent act? Yes.

It can prevent a person from ever becoming violent in the first place. We need to appeal to one another’s humanity. We need to give compassion openly and freely and be willing to receive it.

But it has to start from within. That’s the catch. We each need to choose compassion. Still, there are ways to help others feel compassion and be moved to choose it, and that is by seeing acts of compassion performed. The more compassionate acts we perform the more likely we are to evoke compassion in one another. Compassion breeds compassion.

So, my appeal to you is this:  Choose compassion.

Choose compassion and keep choosing it every day, in every way, in every situation you encounter. And with time, we will turn the tide. We can end the violence. We can change hearts and minds.

We can fix this broken world.

5 Tips for a More Compassionate Self

I’m a fan of compassion as a driving force for positive change. It can change pain into relief, suffering to euphoria and strife to peace. The power of compassion is transformative. It can feed the hungry, heal the sick, and free the oppressed. We see it all the time, yet it never can seem to happen enough to cure all the suffering in the world.

Can we fuel the flame of compassion? Can we generate more compassion within ourselves in the greater world?

The Dalai Lama and now scientists agree that the answer to both of those questions is, “yes.” Research shows that through conscious effort we can become more compassionate individuals, and through our example of compassionate action, we can even increase the compassionate response of others who observe it.

Are you interested increasing your compassion response? If so, then here are some practical tips on how you can do so:

  1. See Yourself in Others

The more we see others as being like us, the more likely we are to be drawn to help them. That feeling of similarity generates a strong feeling of empathy – the feeling that we are suffering with the other person. Empathy is the spark that ignites compassion.

  1. Don’t Worry, Be Helpful

The fear that others’ suffering will become our own can be a roadblock to compassion. Clear your path by reducing your sense of worry. The less you worry, the more likely you are to help others.

  1. Believe in Yourself

The more confident you are that you can reduce another person’s suffering, the more likely you are to do it. So, believe in yourself – not just for your own sake, but for the sake of others.

  1. Don’t Play the Blame Game

Blame limits our compassion. So, be careful not to blame others for their misfortune. Keep in mind that we all suffer and that you suffer too. If you think of someone as your equal, then you are more likely to reach out to them with a compassionate and generous spirit.

  1. Easy Does It

Be careful not to take on too much of other people’s suffering as your own. Doing so can lead to a form of burn out known as Compassion Fatigue. Instead, practice the art of Self Compassion by limiting the degree to which you take on the suffering of others as your own.

Though easy in theory, these tips can be challenging to put into practice and stick with, especially on our most challenging days. But it’s worth the effort, because increasing our compassion can help transform our lives in a variety of positive ways. It can deepen our relationships, increase our sense of wellbeing, and help us feel a greater connection with everyone we meet. And with dedicated practice, as we grow our own compassion, we can help spread compassion in those around us, and little by little transform the world.