Hey, White House, Don’t Redefine Compassion

White Roses

“…(Compassion) is the ability to connect with someone and the ability to relate to that person at a deeper level and have a much more open-hearted kind of interaction.”

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney when presenting the proposed federal budget stated, “We no longer want to measure compassion by the number of programs that we have, or the number of people that are on those programs. We want to measure compassion, true compassion, by the number of people we help to get off those programs.” This is trickery in language and an attempt to use a word that spiritual leaders profess as one of the highest paths to becoming a force for good.

For one, compassion is not a measured state. Compassion doesn’t take away help. Compassion is not political. Compassion is many things, but not as defined by Director Mulvaney.

“In the classical teachings of the Buddhist tradition compassion is defined as the heart that trembles in the face of suffering. It is aspired to as the noblest quality of the human heart, the motivation underlying all meditative paths of healing and liberation,” wrote Christina Feldman and Willem Kuyken for “Contemporary Buddhism.”

“Compassion literally means ‘to suffer together.’ Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering,” explains The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley.

From the Big Think: “Author Thupten Jinpa, who is perhaps most well-known as the long-time translator for the Dalai Lama, explains … that social fears and pressure often lead us to repress our compassionate inclinations. Among these fears is the feeling that someone will exploit your kindness, as well as the worry that compassion is most often linked to emotion and therefore leads to irrational thinking.

“’It’s very unfortunate,’ says Jinpa, ‘that these various forms of culturally acquired fear really undermine the expression of what is really natural to us as human beings, which is the ability to connect with someone and the ability to relate to that person at a deeper level and have a much more open-hearted kind of interaction.’”

A proposed removal of social safety nets without an alternative plan to provide help for those in need, is not compassion.

This is not meant to be a point of political argument as to what the purpose of government is in America. My intent is to challenge the use of the word compassion as a smokescreen for the removal of governmental programs that assist the disadvantaged on multiple levels.

I won’t deny that there are those among us who take advantage of governmental assistance. They are the minority. And I won’t deny that there are those among us who have grown immense wealth by cheating others and governmental regulations. For a wealthy cheat to point out a poor cheat is the perfect definition of irony.

Dr. Jinpa’s reference to fear is spot on and in full regalia. And now we have a proposed budget that is anything but defined compassion.

One is welcome to call the proposed budget glorious or hideous, but “true compassion” it is not.


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