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Mon, Oct. 21

Barnes: Reflecting on compassion

Whatever became of compassion?

Has it been vanquished by mean-spirited individuals?

Far too many people seem to be determined to look for the worst in individuals instead of the best. Imperfections — which can be found in all of us — increasingly receive public attention. Read letters to the editor, listen to talk shows, attend public meetings, pay attention to politicians’ pronouncements. Listen to our president. Verbal attacks on individuals have become a national pastime.

In the process of engaging in personal attacks, we seem to have forgotten that the only sure antidote to harming others is compassion.

Maybe we no longer feel it should be developed or preserved. Perhaps we don’t feel we have the capacity to care deeply about our fellow human beings or to comprehend that compassion is important—to us and others.

But if we believe any of this, we are wrong!

Eric Hoffer wrote that “Compassion is probably the only antitoxin of the soul.”

Without compassion, the poisons of prejudice, hate, bigotry and intolerance have the capacity to not only infect the soul, but render it evil; the noble attributes of love, hope, faith, tolerance and honor will not take root or be nurtured: injustices against others will be countenanced, if not practiced, and the forces of good and decency will be defeated.

In the absence of compassion, mean-spiritedness takes hold of the soul. This would not be so consequential if it were confined to the individual. Sadly, however, meanness appears to be contagious. It spreads to groups and organizations.

I believe we should be particularly disturbed by the demise of decency, civility, integrity, tolerance and honesty among our nation’s leaders. When a government loses the respect of the governed, it is because it has lost compassion for the people.

Human life is ennobled through the compassion of others; it is cheapened and devalued through meanness.


On a more positive note, let me express my gratitude and appreciation to the staff of the YRMC Emergency Center and to the nurses and staff on the fourth floor of our hospital who cared for me last week. I am doing fine now. You won my admiration and love!

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