Where Does Compassion Belong Among Pagans and Polytheists?

I’m having a hard time with compassion.

So far, I’ve developed a daily ritual at my altar, I’ve reconciled (for the time being) my differences with my Christianity, I’m working to hold the tension between my Druid Revival leanings and my ADF approach, and all of that feels good. I feel like I’m developing a balanced, sincere, honorable religious practice.

And yet, I’m uncertain about compassion.

By saying that I’m uncertain about compassion I don’t mean to imply that I don’t feel compassion, or that I’m uncertain of how to show compassion. It’s more that I’m not sure how I incorporate compassion into my practice. This subject hasn’t come up much in my Pagan studies, and I’m not really sure why.

We Pagans and Polytheists concern ourselves a great deal with orthopraxy, or right action. We discussion belief from time to time, but mainly as it relates to what we do. In light of this, I think we are actually well suited to explore the subject of compassion.

Compassion, as I see it, is all about the doing. It is about right action in relationship to another person or living thing. Compassion speaks to a quality of interaction, and as I understand it, arises from a place of empathy. We act with compassion by seeking to understand, relate to, and care for another person, exactly where they are in that moment. In this way, compassion can be seen as a practice similar to a daily ritual at one’s altar, except that the opportunity to show compassion is present every time we connect with another person.

Compassion is not a solitary act; it is an act of communing.

Just before bed last night, I read a post by my colleague, Star Foster, in which she announced that she would be taking a brief hiatus from blogging. I also read a rather heated and uncomfortable debate between Star and her readership, followed by a flurry of posts about the exchange on Facebook. Everyone was worked up, and many were downright angry.

I’m not taking sides on the matter, because I don’t think that would be helpful. What I will say is that what is evident in the argument that unfolded around her original post, and the situation that Star describes in her Sabbatical post are indications that we are in dire need to have a discussion about compassion and what it means in our interactions with one another.

The internet, by and large, has not proven to be a haven for compassion. We all know this. We engage in social networks from a place of relative isolation, and in the process we practice a kind of inauthentic, calculated transparency. Our profile pics are not our genuine faces, and our text-voice is not our voice-voice. When we communicate online, we are interacting with something that only resembles a part of a complete person. I wonder if in recognizing this fact we give ourselves permission to be meaner than we would if a person was sitting across from us. Perhaps compassion feels multidimensional, whereas the internet presents us all as two-dimensional characters. I don’t know.

But I do know that I was upset by the intensity and insensitivity of the language that followed Star’s posts. I like Star, with all of her feistiness. I also know and like many of the people who responded to her, and I trust that they are equally as capable of compassion as she is.

In thinking about this, I had to acknowledge my own inability to convey and express compassion. My first draft of this post was quite righteous, and I’m afraid was devoid of any compassion whatsoever. Ironic, no? In my own quest to call out others for their lack of compassion, I experienced a lack of compassion. Why would that be so?

I have many questions. I would like to know if compassion could be a guiding principle in our interaction with one another, and if we might allow it to come more to the forefront of our minds. When we find ourselves being caddy with one another, or hateful, or when we use our language to shut one another down in conversation, I wonder if we might take a moment to ask ourselves if there is a more compassionate way of acting.

I could be the most pious, most devout, most respected person in the world (or at least, in my corner of the blogosphere), but if I don’t practice compassion with the people I come into contact with what is my piety worth? Perhaps it’s worth something to the Gods I worship, but I’m not living in a world populated exclusively by my Gods. Everybody else is here too, and you are all deserving of my compassion.

I would like to see compassion become a point of discussion in our community. I would like to see us discuss with a calm, self-reflective, gentle voice how we can be more compassionate with one another. I could imagine us searching through our histories, both mythological and ordinary, for examples of compassion-in-action, and holding up those mythological and historical figures who exemplify compassion as being worthy of special recognition.

And, I’d like us to think of compassion as an act of magick, as though our clear, concise choice to use our faculties and will to respond to our fellow human being with care and kindness is mystical in nature.

Could we conceive of compassion as a magickal practice?

If we are a people concerned with religious orthopraxy – right action in relation to the Gods – what would happen if we began to think of compassion for one another as a king of social orthopraxy – right action in relationship to one another? How might that change things?

What are your thoughts on compassion?






44 responses to “Where Does Compassion Belong Among Pagans and Polytheists?”

  1. […] post, and the discussion, are informed by a previous post by Theo on Where Does Compassion Belong Among Pagans and Polytheists,  and a responding post by Steven T. Abell entitled Compassion in Cold Climates, both very much […]

  2. […] and I too often try to pin it down. I ask a lot of questions. I always have. I asked about our concept of compassion, and it led to a follow-up piece by fellow Patheos writer, Steven T Abell. I asked questions about […]

  3. Daniel SnowKestral Avatar
    Daniel SnowKestral

    Now I remember I also wanted to post this link– It is an interview with John O’Donohue regarding the “Presence of Compassion.”  Here it is: http://www.personaltransformation.com/ODonohue.html

  4. Daniel SnowKestral Avatar
    Daniel SnowKestral

    Hey Theo!  Part of your article mentiones that “compassion is not a solitary act, but it is an act of communing.”  I would just like to mention that this really hit home with me in the sense that compassion also has to be a solitary act and a meditation of communing with ourselves, too.  Since compassion arises out of a conciousness of individuality, and becomes a practice to reach out into community, society, and the world, compassion becomes relevent by first becoming realized within…this requires both gentleness and patience with ourselves, as well as compassion, which begins within the hearth of our hearts.

  5. Cat C-B Avatar

    I always love your blog, though I seldom comment.  Here, Teo, you “speak to my condition” as we say in Quakerese.

    I haven’t found many sources of instruction or inspiration in the exploration of compassion among Pagans, online or in print.  I have, however, found the practice of compassion to be entirely compatible with Paganism, and I’ve found many offline (and a few online) models in my Pagan community.

    In my life, forgiveness, compassion, and peace have become my most important spiritual disciplines.  I find writing about them almost as challenging as practicing them; both are rewarding.

    But it’s true that it is easier to draw or paint a shadow than a light.  Sometimes the most important of our spiritual practices are far, far harder to write about than the mythology of a god or a divinatory technique, let alone the far-too easy work of writing about our faults and failings as a community.  It’s so much easier to write from a place of cynicism or anger than openness and love.

    I rely on you to help write the hard stuff.  Keep it up!

    1. Nicole Youngman Avatar
      Nicole Youngman

      I suspect dialoging with the Buddhists would be useful too!

  6. […] is the Point of Your Religion?April 17, 2012 By Teo Bishop Leave a CommentLast week I asked, “Where does compassion belong among Pagans and Polytheists?” Beneath this first question there is another, more relevant question; one that has been […]

  7. Glenn Avatar

    I am a man of few words so I will keep this short. We should all live by a simple rule of thumb that I speak of all the time. ” There is no honor in dishonoring others.” If you have a point make it, make it, but don’t tear the other person down just because they have a different point of view.

    – Glenn Bergen

    An Independent Asatru 

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you, Glenn. Your words hit home.

      Blessings to you.

  8. LaurelhurstLiberal Avatar

    Unfortunately, Star Foster erased the entire discussion, it seems, so it’s not really clear what you are responding to.  Maybe you could have summarized the discussion a bit?

    I do think that people tend to assume that someone with an impressive-looking blog is a Big Time Journalist, rather than a normal person with a computer who blogs regularly.  Not actually true, and it’s not at easy at it looks.  People also get attached to bloggers and then feel deprived when they’re not fed new posts regularly, but that’s not really the bloggers’ problem.  I think I speak for a lot of readers that it’s better for Star Foster to keep the site as good as it now, rather than risking burnout by also keeping up frequent blog posts. 

    Now, about compassion: as a Heathen Reconstructionist, this is one of the big questions I’m still trying to puzzle out.  Right now, it seems to me that a Heathen should be a good neighbor and a good citizen, but isn’t necessarily supposed to have capital-C Compassion for everybody in the world.  There are people inside the gates that you particularly need to take care of, and those outside the gates should be helped, or at least not harmed, but not at the cost of those inside the gates.  I think that’s difficult enough without trying for a saintly level of universal compassion.

  9. Themon the Bard Avatar

    Great post, as always, Teo.

    Civility, compassion, empathy. I see these as separate.

    Civility is the least of these, a social virtue (and fairly shallow, though important.) I think it is a standard that we can and should hold ourselves and other to. At least most of the time. It’s pretty much the set of playground rules we were supposed to learn in Kindergarten or day care, and which some (e.g. bullies) never quite figured out. You don’t have to like the other person, or respect them, or “feel their pain.” You just need to not throw rocks at them.

    There are differing degrees of civility. There is true civility, the gesture that smooths our shoulder-to-shoulder interactions. There is the barely-civil civility: face-clawing hostility held in check by a single strand of hair. Then there is sly civility, a facade from behind which you can assassinate character with impunity, the purview of the satirist and the evil manager.

    I think most calls for “compassion” are really just calls for a truer civility.

    Compassion, in my mind, cuts a lot deeper, and is more a personal virtue than a social one. It requires an attempt to get into someone else’s head, to walk a mile in their shoes — ultimately, to see the person inside the jerk. If you’re in a position of power, it can be a social virtue as well, but among peers I think it’s more for you than for the other person. In most cases, you can’t tell whether a person is exercising compassion or merely being very civil. Where it comes out most clearly is in their judgement of people.

    A person without compassion sees a thief and says, “Off with his hand. He is a thief, and that is the punishment.” A person with compassion sees that the thief was starving. It may or may not affect the outcome, but the compassionate person sees the person, not the “thief.” The entire story of Les Miserables is a study in this distinction.

    Substitute the word “terrorist” for “thief,” and you’ll see the instantaneous collapse of compassion in the US mindset.

    Compassion is, I think, a natural part of spiritual maturity, which is why it gets linked to “spirituality.” A lot of people get blocked, and are unable to see “those people” — be they blacks, gays, Muslims, thieves, drug-addicts, or terrorists — as human. They are subhuman, and worthy of punishment, torture, or extermination, like any other insect or pest. This is an attitude expected of the young, though it isn’t pretty. It’s even uglier when exhibited by the old.

    Empathy is a completely different thing, I think. It’s a technique, or method, of connecting with another person at an emotional level. Therapists develop it and use it as a tool. Some people are cursed as “natural empaths,” which typically means they have trouble shutting it off, so they go through life feeling other people’s emotions. Empathy doesn’t necessarily lead to compassion: you can empathize with a person the same way you can empathize with a dog, and go right on denying their humanity. 

    My Wednesday-afternoon thoughts on the matter….

  10. Kilmrnock Avatar

    As is my family Sunweaver . We are a quite diverse bunch as well . Some are HD Christians , some are nominal . Altho mostly Christian my family has a few pagans , we all love and care for each other as a family should . I also Deeply love and and care about and for my wife . I was just stating that a Recon and Neopagan can have a loving relationship w/o going into alot of detail . That is why i said Quite well .Granted we do have our differences , but there is enough common ground for our relationship to flourish . We even do rituals together .   Kilm

    1. Sunweaver Avatar

       Oh, I assumed so. I always want more betterer interfaith relations and tend to climb the soapbox and flail my arms a bit on the topic. Good is never good enough for me. I want awesome.

    2. Sunweaver Avatar

       Oh, I assumed so. I always want more betterer interfaith relations and tend to climb the soapbox and flail my arms a bit on the topic. Good is never good enough for me. I want awesome.

  11. Sunweaver Avatar

    I am ::so:: glad you’ve brought this up. Compassion is something that, by my estimation, is at the core of every religion. As a Hellenic Polytheist, I feel that one of my primary goals is to achieve arete in all aspects of my life. This doesn’t just mean excellence in my profession or hobbies, but excellence as a human being that lives with other human beings. That means attention to how I relate to others on a one-to-one basis as well as attention to social justice. Am I proceeding with humility, compassion, and love? If the answer is “no,” then I’m not operating at my best and have left the house with my spiritual curlers in.

    Compassion isn’t something that comes easily or naturally to me. I have to work and practice at it to overcome my own default attitude of selfishness. My experience is that when one practices compassion, one is more open to seeing compassion and love in the Gods. This is probably one of the most valuable practices we can undergo.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I’d like to think that compassion is at the core of every religion. That makes sense to me, and I’m beginning to wonder if it’s true.

      I think the connection between compassion and personal excellence is interesting, and one I hadn’t considered. Perhaps that’s because arete isn’t a concept I’m familiar with, nor the system from which it derives. But, I like it.

      I think it compassion came easily to us, there wouldn’t be such a need to talk about it, work with it, teach it, practice it. It’s necessary, but it can be difficult. The practice is what’s important, I think. We seem to be in agreement about that.

      Thank you for your comment, Sunweaver. I’m glad that you’re a part of the conversation.

  12. Eran_Rathan Avatar

    Teo wrote:
    I could be the most pious, most devout, most respected person in the world (or at least, in my corner of the blogosphere), but if I don’t practice compassion with the people I come into contact with what is my piety worth? Perhaps it’s worth something to the Gods I worship, but I’m not living in a world populated exclusively by my Gods. Everybody else is here too, and you are all deserving of my compassion. 

    Yes, Yes YES!

    THIS is of utmost importance, Teo, not just for those who walk our paths, but also every other thing on the planet. To me, Reverence, Hospitality, and Empathy are all so intertwined as to be inseparable.

    Imagine, if you will, going to someone else’s home. You should treat them and theirs with Reverence & Courtesy, to not tax their Hospitality, because you would want them to treat you the same, should they come to your house.

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
    The heart of all philosophies and religions.

  13. Kilmrnock Avatar

    Btw , Sarenth , you my freind follow a Honor/ conduct code ………….you probly already know this .           Kilm

  14. Kilmrnock Avatar

    I also want to mention as seperate camps , recon and neo pagan we must be civil to one another .We are after all , still all pagans . And just for the record , we recons donot consider ourselves neopagans , altho under a wide definition we technicaly are . We for the most part are trying to reconstruct the true old ways through personal research using scholary and archiological sourses w/ the least amount of UPG possible in a modern context . We approuch paganism from an entirely different perspective than most Wiccans or neopagans do .Our inherant differences are no reason for open hostility and redicule of one from the other camp . Now, uniting both groups will more than likely not work as of now , but we can peacibly coexist . Atleast be civil to each other . As Star has stated neither is better than the other , just take different aprouches .Where most , but not all neopagans are duothiestic , generaly all recons  are hard polythiestic and dedicated to one ethnicity . These basic differences need not lead to hostility and personal attacks , as pagans this cannot be tolarated.In my case i am a recon[CR] and my wife is a eclectic neopagan [witch] , we coexist quite well . The community as a whole  can as well. With the current socio/political situation now , we need not be flaming each other , we have enough problems dealing with the society at large to do this now or ever.  Kilm

    1. Sunweaver Avatar

       Peaceable coexistence is a good start, but we can definitely do better than that. My husband is (nominally) a Roman Catholic and if we simply peaceably coexisted, it wouldn’t make for much of a marriage. My whole family is whatchacall “religiously diverse” and when we get together, we care for each other like family regardless of religious affiliation.
      I am certainly not disagreeing with you. Hostility is untenable as the basis for our interfaith interactions. I just think that through the practice of compassion, we can acknowledge the humanity of our fellow persons without regard to religion, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation, or other differences and unite on the front of human rights and social justice. We might even make friends.

  15. Ywendragoneye Avatar

    Thank you for posting this – I too was disturbed by the recent dialogue on Star’s blog. But you bring up an even larger issue. We not only need compassion for fellow Pagans, but for those of other faiths as well. And so I will express a pet peeve of mine that always seems to come up at this time of year – that is the tendancy for my Pagan brothers and sisters to refer to Easter as “zombie day” in some form or another. I see this appear from various people on Facebook every Easter. I find this highly offensive, and usually call out the offender. I wonder, though, why some Pagans feel this is acceptable. Set aside the fact that numerous Pagan dieties have also risen from the dead, it is simply disrespectful of other people’s belief system. And how can we expect respect for our beliefs, when we do not offer respect in turn. And so it goes with compassion – one must give it to get it. And keep giving it, and keep giving it, and keep giving it.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you for your comment, Ywendragoneye. I’m glad to see you here.

      You bring up a great point. While I appreciate humor as much as anyone, and I try to toss in a healthy dose of irreverence to balance out my piety, I understand the value of respecting people’s own sense of the Sacred. If we want to be recognized and honored, we must first seek to recognize and honor others. It’s reciprocal.

      I hope that this post, and perhaps a few that are forthcoming, will start to draw our focus toward how our actions reflect our beliefs about compassion and community.

      Blessings to you.

  16. Sarenth Avatar

    We could conceive of compassion as a magickal practice, but we could
    also look at it as a practical one.  If we do not wish to victimize
    others, “sympathetic consciousness of others’
    distress together with a desire to alleviate it”, then we may well have
    to deal with less distress on our end of things.  Call it the Lazy
    Person method of reducing stress; don’t generate it in the first place,
    you won’t have to deal with it at all.

    Social orthopraxy is built into my religion.  Gebo, that is, gift
    for a gift, asks that I  look at the reciprocal relationships I am
    involved in.  Right action reduces suffering in myself and others, even
    if the suffering must be immediate.  My word is my bond, and breaking
    it not only harms me and takes from my spiritual energy, but harms my
    community and takes from my community’s energy.  Breaking my word also
    has adverse effects on my relationship with my spirits, Ancestors, and
    Gods.  This understanding and spiritual relationship between myself, my
    community, Gods, etc. encourages right action not just due to negative
    consequences, but positive ones as well.  What affects me affects my
    community, and all my relationships, however small.  Cultivating
    compassion for myself, and others, encourages positive results for all
    of us. The more that we engage in this understanding as a whole the
    better we can affect ourselves, communities, and planet.

    Compassion is not the cure-all, but I feel it is part of orthopraxy
    that can set us right with this world, our fellow Pagans, our Gods, and

    “I could be the most pious, most devout, most respected person in the
    world (or at least, in my corner of the blogosphere), but if I don’t
    practice compassion with the people I come into contact with what is my
    piety worth?”

    Your piety in this case may well depend on the Gods you worship.  Many
    of our Gods place a high emphasis on hospitality as being part of, or
    as high on Their list of importance, as piety.  In my own case, I feel
    that hospitality is part of my piety.  Therefore, for me, you cannot be
    pious and not be hospitable.  Yet I think there is a poor understanding
    of hospitality at the moment in much of the community.  Hospitality
    means honoring one’s limits, as well as those of others, in addition to
    being welcoming and open to other people.  It is about boundaries as
    much as open doors, and I think that is sometimes lost in discussions
    of hospitality.  There is a lot of discussion on how open we should
    leave our doors, and not as much when we should respect ourselves/our
    community/our Gods, and leave the door shut.

  17. L.S. Alabaster Avatar
    L.S. Alabaster

    Merry meet,
    I left my wiccan (direct) path and became a druid for a while.  Not one attached to ADF, etc.  But when the Arc High Priestess wanted us to curse something, because according to her druidic path, it was ok to curse, I felt like I had left compassion behind – it went against everything my beliefs were founded upon.  And so, I believe that compassion is interwoven within the harm none philosophy.  It would be like saying what is a human without veins – what is ‘harm none’ without compassion, it is part of the big picture.  Thank you for your interesting blog, Merry part and hopefully merry meet again.LSA

  18. Aine Llewellyn Avatar

     I’m hoping to write a bit about this in my blog, mainly focused on online compassion and compassionate interaction.  Because, as you noted, the internet does not usually bring out the best in people.  We get nasty, we get mean, we get petty.  I’ve done it, I’ve seen others do it, I’ve had it done to me.

    But compassion is important to me. Especially on the internet. I try not to get involved in internet fights because they just sap away time, and if I do get involved I usually try to use humor or snark rather than actually posting a rant.  (I usually can’t stand snark, but in certain cases…)  When I started my forum last year I committed to having a community that treated each other with respect. We usually do a pretty good job.  We agree to disagree in some areas and don’t fight over words or belief or ‘who is right’ or ‘Pagan enough’. We focus on learning and educating each other. I’ve seen groups cut down seekers because they weren’t ‘Pagan enough’ or educated enough on x, y, z.  It’s nice to have a small area of the internet where I don’t have to worry or preface my statements with twenty disclaimers.

    For me, compassion is my way of honoring the Godself of other beings. I view everyone as having a shard that is inherently divine, and it is only proper that I am kind and respectful to the deities, even ‘little gods’.  If someone is being cruel to me I will strike back, often with force and not feel bad about doing so. I prefer being kind to all people, but I’m not a doormat either. However, I try to always take a moment to breathe and pray and reflect before responding to people or actions or words I find distasteful.

  19. thalassa Avatar

    Teo, I think (if you are not familiar with it) you might be interested in watching Karen Armstrong’s TED talk on her Charter for Compassion…

    …but I think (for myself) compassion is simply (or complexly) a the logical extension of hospitality to the persons one encounters when they step out of their home (and their comfort zone).  Of course, I see hospitality as a combination of respect and recognition of sacredness and extend the actions of hospitality to conservation (all of which are ideas I’ve blogged about over the past few Pagan Values Blogging events–which I’ve just reminded myself is coming up again just two months), so its not that much different to extend hospitality as a value in action to people outside ones home. 

    Actually (since I felt compelled to pull it up and revisit it), the last paragraph of last year’s post from hospitality says it a bit better:  “But hospitality, at least by our reckoning (in this family), goes beyond baking a tasty pie for company, or bringing a dish to a potluck.  We are all guests in this dance of life, among our friends and families, in our wider communities and on our planet.  It is our responsibility to do so in a way that honors ourselves (via integrity), our fellow guests (via service) and our earthly host (via conservation)…and that honors the Divine in us all”

  20.  Avatar

    Funny you should address this today. Earlier, I read an article to which someone had linked on FB, about courtesy when presenting your views to others. You might find it worth a look: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/08/reformation_of_an_evangelical/singleton/

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you so much for sharing this article!

  21. Kilmrnock Avatar

    Well as As a Sinnsreachd Warrior, my concept of right action is part of my Honor/ Conduct code.It normaly applies not only to my gods [Celtic pantheon]and ancestors but also to normal interperson relationships including online . Happens as a matter of fact stemming from not only my chosen path , but how i was raised as a child . I will always show honor and respect to those that deserve such .I believe the concept of hospitality fits in this discussion as well, whereas being hospitible to others means they will be hospitible to you in return .As discussions on a CR blog i frequent this involves a reflexive responce . In other words treat people well and you will recieve like treatment     Kilm   FYI , Sinnsreachd is a CR style religion/ lifesytle , CR meaning Celtic reconstructionism

  22.  Avatar

    “The internet, by and large, has not proven to be a haven for compassion.”

    That’s a money quote right there, Teo. Yes, it’s obvious (at least, I would hope it is obvious to most). But it still bears repeating until folks get it. 

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      It’s a message we all need to be reminded of, I think. We all participate in it to a degree, so it’s good that we reflect on what we’re participating in.

      Thanks for the comment, brainwise. Glad to see you here.

  23. Lady GreenFlame Avatar
    Lady GreenFlame

    Well said. I think we all need to have long, deep ponderin’ session about why we’re here and what the hell good is our religion if we’re still assholes to each other.

    1. Lady GreenFlame Avatar
      Lady GreenFlame

      I’m going to elaborate on this. I’ve practiced traditional initiatory Wicca in the American vein since 2000. I came from a liberal tradition of esoteric Christianity and New Age teachings where compassion was assumed. I guess I just brought that into my Paganism. As time went on, I did not see a lot of it in the greater scene although in my local community, that has changed quite a bit. However, as I have grown in my Wicca, my understanding of the Goddess has grown to understand Her as an avatar of love and compassion (among many other qualities). I developed this from direct experience with Her, some of Her priestesses, dialogue with other Wiccans, and meditation on the “Descent of the Goddess” myth as well as readings in the mystery cult of Isis. This has helped me be more forgiving and forebearing toward others while still strengthening my own boundaries and sense of decency. 

      1. Teo Bishop Avatar

        Thank you for these comments, Lady GreenFlame. I’m glad to know that your relationship to the Goddess is informing your understanding of love, compassion, forgiveness, and self-care.

        I’m curious – do these understandings come as a kind of revelation? Do you feel that the Goddess is teaching you, or that through meditation on the nature of the Goddess you come to understand these things better?

  24. Laura M. LaVoie Avatar

    Thank you so much for your post. I think it is just what our
    greater community needs to hear right now. I’m with you – that I am not taking
    sides – but I have been struggling with that decision. I feel like I should
    have taken a stand when I saw the venom that was being spewed. Whether or not I
    agree with someone, no one deserves to be insulted in some of the ways I read
    after the situation exploded. People seem to feel more comfortable doing that
    on the internet that they ever would in person. I don’t care if people don’t
    like each other, but I prefer the “If you can’t say something nice, don’t
    say anything” model of handling the situation. So I began to feel a little
    guilty that I didn’t do something about it. I would prefer to be known as
    compassionate and considerate than anything else.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      You’re quite welcome, Laura, and thank you for your comment. I appreciate you being a part of the dialogue.

      I read this quote passage today on the Facebook page of Sean Michael Morris (https://www.facebook.com/seanmichaelmorris):

      “Do not think you are alone in your desire to be heard. Those who question you are wanting to be heard. Recognize, though, that insisting on being heard often deafens the ears of the speaker. You must listen if you are to teach.”

      There may be a valuable lesson in this.

  25. Tammywooliver Avatar

    I see compassion and empathy as two different things.  Compassion is born out of a person’s pain and suffering…they are able to connect with others as a result of having walked the walk.  Empathy is a sticky wicket.  I commend to you to read Edwin Friedman’s book, Failure of Nerve; Leadership in an Age of Quick Fix.  He has a chapter titled, The Fallacy of Empathy.  His premise is that empathy is employed at the cost of responsibility.  Rather than confront and hold anxious people accountable, we use empathy, which in the end only allows the anxious to continue their behavior.  It’s worthy of a read.  Sometimes the most compassionate/loving act is to set a boundary…hold another accountable.  Jesus was good at this…he basically said to the privileged…it’s not okay to treat others this way.  Of course, setting such boundaries got him crucified….

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you for being a part of the dialogue, Tammy. Glad to see you here.

      I can see how empathy and compassion are two different things. I also see there being a function to empathy. Empathy allows us to approach an understanding of what another’s experience might be like. If we do not place ourselves in their position, even imaginatively, how are we to know if our boundaries are appropriate, our judgments just, or how exactly we might respond in compassion?

      I may give this book a look. I did a Google search and found that I was able to look at a little bit of it online. The chart where he sought to “Reorient Our Conceptions of Leadership” caught my attention. He’s presented a very binary approach to the understanding of empathy (and all of the other concepts, for that matter). In the view that he’s presented on page 50 (and there’s clearly more to the book than what I’m seeing) empathy is either oriented to “foster feelings, sensitivity, rights,” OR to “foster responsibility for one’s own being and destiny.” My question is, could we not approach empathy as fostering all of that? Does he ever explore how empathy could encourage a deeper emotional understanding of another person while at the same time encouraging personal responsibility?

      Do you agree with Friedman that empathy is “employed at the cost of responsibility?” Have you ever experienced empathy in connection to compassion, or to holding one accountable?

  26. Bill Wheaton Avatar

    You might be right on the nut with this idea.  I know that despite my love for my path, I have, in recent years desired more through it.  I notice too that many long time pagans feel the same.   There is a general “antsiness” that we are missing something, and it might just be that we have such a love built up that we want it to explode as a gift to others in an expression of compassion.  Maybe it has to do with getting older (I’m in my 50s now) and I’m letting the little things that don’t matter so much anymore, slip by the wayside to live or die on their own.  This might explain why several old friends tend towards nourishing themselves on Buddhism lately.  Not just Pagans, but Jewish friends, and some Christian friends as well.  I’ll not take sides either, but I was mildly shocked, and saddened by what I read.  Sometimes that luring abyss is hard to step away from.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you for your comment, Bill. I’m reassured by your testimony of your own desire for deeper engagement with compassion. Many of my ideas on the subject come from my husbands relationship to Buddhism, and his inquiry into the nature of compassion.

      The thing is, I don’t think compassion belongs in any one religious camp. Certain traditions may emphasize it more than others, but ultimately this is about human experience. I tend to think that compassion is something universal, or that is universally experienceable by all.

      I wonder – have you always been on a Pagan path? Was there ever a time when you felt that compassion was incorporated into your religious life more actively?

  27. Fern Miller Avatar
    Fern Miller

    Personally, I don’t see it as a ‘compassion’ issue, I see it as one of the rough edges of the evolution of the roles of host and guest in the age of electronic communication.  So for me, those who post replies to my blog are my guests and get treated as such.  Those who I CHOOSE to allow to friend me on FB are my guests.  And I have to treat them as such.  Guests, of course, have certain obligations themselves.

    Now, on a ‘professional site’ or page …. roles are going to be somewhat different.  You hang out your shingle and invite others in, they are not your guests.  They are your customers.  You owe them service, they pay your bills.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Fern. I’m glad you’re a part of the dialogue.

      I certainly relate to the idea of treating those who visit my blog as guests. I try my best to facilitate dialogue in such a way as to be encouraging and supportive, while at the same time asking people to reach for something deeper. I don’t always succeed at this, but I try.

      I would even suggest that there is value in treating people this way on a “professional site,” if perhaps to a lesser degree. The boundaries are different, but the desire to make one feel welcome may be the same.

      You’ve brought up some great idea about how we might practice hospitality online, and I wonder if you might have ideas about how compassion might be connected to hospitality, or to a spiritual or magickal practice. How do you practice compassion?

  28. Akashicbunny Avatar

    I feel rather strongly that compassion has become a forgotten virtue but online and in the walking world.  “Doing right for myself” or “by my Gods” has driven out the simple concern I learned before I started school of “How would I feel if..” As we lose the perspective of self and other as the same, we lose much of what is best in us.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you for this comment, Akashicbunny. You bring up something important, which is remembering that what another person experiences is deeply connected to our own experience. We are not as separate as we may seem.

      How do you practice compassion?