Today I signed the Charter for Compassion pledge. I have joined with over 100,000 people around the world. It makes so much sense to me. The more compassion in our daily lives, the more compassion in the world.
At this time of year, when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace and the beginning of a New Year, it seems fitting to make compassion a priority. Learning about the Charter for Compassion and signing the pledge can be the basis for a truly meaningful New Year's resolution.
Of course, I have never really kept my other resolutions - exercise every day, lose weight, get organized, learn to paint, learn a new language, become a better cook, moisturize before going to bed... the list of ways to improve myself goes on and on, and has proven to be almost completely meaningless. Will I be any better at keeping this resolution?
I hope so, because this one is actually important. So to start, I should begin by understanding what compassion actually is.
The word itself means "co-suffering, or to suffer with." The common understanding of compassion is that it is an awareness of the suffering of another along with a desire to alleviate that suffering.
We have all felt this many times in our lives, particularly when we see the suffering of someone we know and love, or when we see the suffering of people to whom we can relate. But, the Charter encourages us to act compassionately to everyone with no exceptions:
"Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect."
This is not a simple task. Certainly, it is harder than exercising everyday or applying moisturizer before bed. It requires me to realize that I am not the most important being in my life...that everyone matters as much as I do. These words are easy to write, easy to think about, and yet, very difficult to live.
One of the characters in I Call Myself Earth Girl experiences a gradual shift in her worldview after years of trying to answer questions posed by her daughter about war, poverty, and why some people suffer so much more than others. When she realizes that she does not have much longer to live, she decides to leave a statement about her new understanding and how she wishes she had lived her life:
We share this planet with each other. None of us own it.
Yet, all of us are responsible for its survival.
We are all connected by our humanity.
I know that every other human being is no less valuable than I.
I believe that love can overcome hate, just as light overcomes darkness.
I believe in peace. I will work for peace.
I will try to:
- Consider the impact of my actions on my fellow human beings and on the earth.
- Engage in no activity that deliberately harms another human being.
- Learn the impact of my choices on people in other parts of the world.
- Seek nonviolent solutions to the problems we face.
- Always recognize and protect the beauty of the earth
- Live with joy in my heart.
The character recognizes that writing a statement about how to live while on her deathbed is much easier than living that way for a lifetime. To have a philosophical ideal about how to live and to put that ideal into actual practice are two very different things.
One is about thinking. The other is about doing.
I actually wrote this statement years before I wrote the book. It is how I want to live. But, I have failed at one or more aspects over and over again ever since I wrote it. I hope that signing the pledge and aligning myself with others who have signed the pledge will help me live up to it. It is truly the most important resolution I have ever made. I hope and pray it is also the most successful.
Please wish me success in this quest to bring true compassion for all into my life.
If you would like to join me and those 100,000 like-minded people, please sign the pledge and please share this blog so that others will sign too!
You can read all about the Charter and also sign the pledge at http://charterforcompassion.org/the-charter
Here are some other resources:
Raising Compassionate, Courageous Children in a Violent World by Janice Cohn, Longstreet Press
Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, Karen Armstrong, Anchor Press
Popular books on compassion listed on Goodreads.com