I don’t want to believe compassion has limits. But sometimes I feel like I’ve reached mine.
It’s not that I stop caring—I don’t, and frankly, I don’t think I could. It’s just that I can’t have all the feelings about all the things and still stay sane, not to mention joyful.
Every day there’s suffering
Every day I confront suffering, as I’m sure you do too. I meet people who are experiencing homelessness, irritability, loneliness, physical discomfort, emotional distress, fear, anxiety, sadness, loss, anger, angst, etc.
No single one of us has enough capacity for all the compassion needed, or at least we can’t all be available to express it all the time.
We can’t do this alone
As much as I appreciate the Pope’s suggestion, I can’t actually give money to every homeless person I encounter without worry.
As much as I want to do my part to ameliorate systemic racism in America, listening to a candid discussion on whiteness and reading about white guilt in terms of a mortgage debt leaves me with more overwhelm than answers.
Fortunately, compassion can be collective
When it feels like my personal limits are getting tapped, I can tap into collective compassion.
Generally, this means leaning on a loved one for hope or inspiration. Calling someone when cynicism encroaches on my optimism. Praying for expansion and the ability to show up more and more.
Specifically, this means teaming up with other people to take compassionate action.
In my immediate experience, collective compassion looks like delivering authenticity to my people every #thankyouthursday, and keeping the faith with my friend Hershey and our In the Spirit endeavor, and working with a mentor to become a better mender.
Outside my immediate experience, collective compassion looks like The Compassion Collective.
The Compassion Collective embodies collective compassion
The Compassion Collective is basically like the Justice League, but with aspirational colleagues of mine instead of fictional superheroes. Basically, a lot of people I respect and admire* have teamed up to make the world better.
Since they have a great website that clearly explains their mission and how we can all take part, I won’t get too much into it here. I simply hold it as a beacon of collective compassion because the organization so very clearly understands that one person cannot carry too much weight.
They even suggest a donation maximum of $25 when they’re doing a flash fundraiser: we accomplish great things when we pool our resources, and that includes our compassion as well as our money.
(Though if you really want to give more than $25, I don’t think they will stop you.)
You and I can kindly take turns
There was this post going around on Facebook about how in a choir, when there is one long note to be held, the trick is to take turns taking breaths. No one person can sustain the whole note, but with intermittent breathing, the tone sounds strong and uninterrupted.
I have so very much to be grateful for, and I know you do too. And there is also a lot that concerns us. It is easy to feel tired.
But we can take turns. Our compassion can be collective, and our love can be limitless.
Love > fear,
*Yes, including Glennon Doyle Melton, surprise surprise—I know I rave about her good works all the time and yes, it is for good reason. But Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed and Rob Bell are great role models, too. The Compassion Collective is, like, an all-star role model team of do-gooding.