Happiness and Compassion

3 years ago I was homeless and obviously deeply unhappy.  And that was when I found out something about myself and maybe about all humans.  I was less generous and less compassionate when I was homeless.

I was more willing to contemplate harming someone to gain an advantage of safety or money.  I was more willing ignore the needs of other people to my own advantage.

I was aware of this and I didn’t like it in myself.  Because I was deeply non functionally depressed, which by its very nature made me unable to really change much, it was hard to grapple with this sudden change in what I considered my essential personality.

I have always considered myself compassionate  and empathetic.  I consider inclusion and participation and caring to be the very foundations that have positively changed the world.   But when I was  unhappy and afraid and my existence felt threatened – I was NOT compassionate.  I was selfish and self centered.

As my life improved, I was able to refocus myself on what I still consider to be my true self and that horrible willingness to hurt people to gain an advantage disappeared.

We would do well to consider that when we look around the world and see so many acts of violence and senseless emotional pain inflicted by one human on another.  All humans are complicated messes of emotions driven by both outside factors and internal damage.  It is very easy to condemn those who steal or hurt people.  They are wrong.

But they are also suffering, those people who cause so much pain.

Perhaps, instead of condemning them and ostracizing them and creating nightmarish prisons, we should consider how we can help them.  Because the rock bottom of the world is not the place where you create productive and compassionate people.  It’s the place where you create monsters.

P.S.  I’m late on this – I just couldn’t help but say this when I read the prompt on 1000speak for compassion.

6 thoughts on “Happiness and Compassion

  1. Have you ever learned about Maslow’s pyramid of human needs? I used it in my teaching and it is really fabulous. Too much to go into here, but in short, he says that our needs have to be fulfilled in a certain order. The first and lowest level is basic biological needs like food and shelter. The second is security. The third level is social needs. His idea is that if you are living at a level of fighting for those most basic of needs, you won’t be concerned about higher levels. You will take obvious risks (i.e. forego security) to get food and warmth. Once your security needs are fulfilled, you can then concern yourself with social relationships . . . etc.
    Your experiences are absolutely in line with this theory and very human.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I did learn that. And wondered about it several times. I had read that it was later considered out of vogue and not taught anymore. That people’s experiences are not as linear as that pyramid suggests, but I certainly experienced something akin to it.


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