A while back, I updated the description for my weekly Something Good list. I added this clarification: This list has changed a bit recently from things you’d typically label as “good” to “things I think you need to see” because the world has shifted and there are things that are important, that need shared.
My mission, my purpose (for my life and this blog) hasn’t changed — to ease suffering, in myself and in the world — but the way I do so has evolved. I used to think the best thing I could do was help to cheer people up, empower and encourage them, remind them that the world and people are fundamentally good. I still think there’s a need for that. There’s always a need for that. But in the meantime, I’ve noticed the need for something else too — speaking out and taking action against oppression, injustice, and aggression. And I am convinced that the primary issue of our time is systematic white supremacy, so much of my effort is focused on dismantling that however I can, because it is harmful to ALL of us, not just those being oppressed.
A critical comment on my last Something Good list made me want to clarify for you, kind and gentle reader, what I’m doing here. The comment referenced The Kind Hearted Blogger Pledge I’d taken some time ago, said that my blog wasn’t kind and neither was I. I took a bit of time and reread the pledge, and realized that I could no longer abide by it completely, so removed the button from my blog.
I believe there is a distinct difference between being kind, or rather “nice,” and being compassionate. I’ve talked about it here before, but the short version is that being “nice” means doing everything I can so that no one feels uncomfortable, staying positive and only saying “nice” things, giving people what they want in order to avoid conflict. Being “nice” is being accommodating, compliant, likeable, quiet if necessary — not rocking the boat.
I’m not nice; I’m compassionate. True compassion does not shy away from causing discomfort or setting boundaries, because compassion is concern for the suffering and misfortune of others. And if you are conspiring or directly involved in the suffering and misfortune of others, I most certainly am not concerned with your comfort or your feelings — if for no other reason than I’m too busy mitigating the harm you are causing and trying to stop you from doing more damage.
In action, compassion first means I practice, regularly focusing my effort on being more mindful, more present, openhearted but stable, healthy, sane, aware, wise. I’m constantly working to heal myself, to process my difficult emotions rather than acting on them, working to unravel my habitual patterns, trying to approach each situation with curiosity rather than judgment, not allowing my discursive thoughts to take control of my actions, considering how I might be generating suffering and figuring out how to ease that.
In action, compassion also means I act on behalf of others who are suffering or being harmed. I am willing to allow people to be who they are, believe what they choose and do what they want, but as soon as that requires the oppression of or violence against others, I won’t comply. I cannot agree with, support, or allow that.
I suppose my blog is an invitation of sorts. I invite you to make this effort with me, to be more compassionate and sane people, to heal what you need to heal in yourself so that you don’t harm others, to remain curious about your own confusion and blind spots, to step in where you see others being harmed and offer help, to give space to the voices of those who are oppressed and otherwise silenced, to protect what needs kept safe, to listen deeply, to maintain your sense of humor, and not give up. As the tagline for this blog urges: life is beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible — keep your heart open. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that to have an open heart, to be compassionate, requires that you be “nice” and keep your mouth shut.