“A canoe does not know who the leader is; when it turns over, everyone gets wet.” – African proverb
“When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool,” a hearty Chinua Achebe wrote in his 1964 novel, ‘Arrow of God.’ His words remind us of how we are all prone to suffering. But until it visits us, we need to question ourselves on how often our hearts quiver in compassion over the suffering of others, of those around us. The frequency tells a lot more about the elasticity of our choice to goodness, truth and beauty.
We know quite a sizeable percentage of our humanity undergo suffering in one form or the other. But we need to understand that not all of their sufferings are brought on by their misuse of their freedoms, some of them are the result of the abuse of authority by people we trust or trusted. It is an understanding that challenges us to be conscious of suffering as a mortal wound of our humanity. “Many of life’s unjust situations reveal to us the shallowness of our relationships or more likely the absence of true and meaningful relationship.” It is one we all need to strive to heal in order to renew our social connexion. Truth is, we are more social beings than we are radical individuals. That is why we should care about the suffering of others.
Your consciousness about suffering affects your choice about hope. And the more conscious you are, the more you are likely to “choose again and again not to lose heart, and not to lose faith in the human capacity for goodness.” It affects your degree of service to our humankind. Too often, too many of us forget our true calling is to serve each other. Let us be real, not many of us wake up each morning with a determination to serve. We do not tell ourselves, “I am going to use my freedom in the best possible manner and I will not abuse any powers granted me.” On the contrary, we are more likely to follow our passions, to act in ways we assume are good enough to achieve whatever personal objectives we have set for ourselves. However, such actions or attitudes is a forgetfulness of our shared belongingness.
Our humanity has been beset with an evil outdo each other. We have cursed life into a competition, and the majority amongst us are so focused on becoming winners, we do not realise there is nothing at stake to win.
The process has created in us a pleasure to condemn others who do not behave like we do. It causes us to relish self-righteousness, because we are always on about our ways, our aspirations, so much so that we have stopped bearing with each other.
We think our passions are so ‘dope.’ That is why many of us strive daily, to grab as much of the goodies of life for ourselves. And even when process deprive or prevent others from having access to the necessities of life, we do not care.
We might as well liken ourselves to viruses. After all, such is their nature, they take over a host and suck the good out of it.
This is the attitude many of us have cloaked ourselves with. We have slowly and diligently warped our minds, all the while suppressing the rational and stimulating compassion within us.
The recent pandemic has taught us that we are only as good as we build each other up, and not pull others down. It has taught us that we need to do more for each other, so that they can do more for us, in case we are struck with suffering.
Its lesson is that our humanity should be built on the discipline of never forgetting, never daring to let ourselves forget, that our compassion, no matter how little is more important than all our passions put together.
It has challenged us to be more compassionate and to understand compassion as an eternal task of not giving in despondency, no matter the circumstances.
Unlike our passions, our compassion is a choice we make to align ourselves to our capacity for good and to appreciate the good that exist in others as well.
It is a choice that steers how you relate to others, all the while striving to make every person worthy of your love and friendship.
Contrary to popular opinion, compassion is not a sign of weakness. In actuality, it is the strongest and the most noble amongst us who can dole out such benevolence.
Nevertheless, all of us can become compassionate if we appreciate our humanity as a never-ending process.
It is not permanent and it will always be threatened by selfishness masquerading as passions, unless we renew and increase our compassionate spirit…
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and a philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true, by helping them to positively respond to that which is beautiful is, whilst nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]