September 3, 2013

On Compassion

Was perusing another forum a couple days ago, and two of the people there were in a heated debate over helping others, charity, giving to the needy, etc.

One chap suggested that the second guy lacked compassion because he (guy #2) didn't support a mandated tax on income that would be dedicated to helping the poor.  Guy #1's words were, paraphrased, "How could you not support helping others?  Have you no compassion?"

Which got me to thinking.

How do we differentiate between genuine true compassion and what is known as "Idiot Compassion".

To define, Idiot Compassion is a compassionate act that is done to alleviate the suffering of the one doing the act.  How often have you heard someone say "I can't stand to see ...I have to do something!"?

Isn't that person then doing "something" (be it giving money, time, supporting a charity, etc.) simply so they don't have to see the thing that caused them the grief?  Are they buying a homeless man a meal so they can see him eat, know he's no longer hungry, and thus alleviate their OWN pain and suffering from seeing a hungry man?

That's Idiot Compassion: People who do acts that, on the face of things, seem to be compassionate, but are done for their own selfish reasons.

This Idiot Compassion is the root of any "Social Welfare" program.  The idea that helping others will, in some fashion, benefit our own selves and our position in society.  "We will all be better if there was less poverty/hunger/uneducated people/etc. in the world."  We don't address these things because it's the right thing to do.  Rather we address these things because it helps US.

So, in essence, this sort of "compassion" is selfishness, and not compassion at all.

Contrast that to true compassion.  Doing something because you just WANT to, without thought of reward or recognition.  Do it because you understand.  Do it because you care, not because you can't bear to watch another suffer.


PJ Geraghty said...

I think I worry less about the motivation behind the act than that it be voluntary.

If I'm your theoretical homeless and hungry dude, I think that I wouldn't care why you're buying me a meal. You're trying to impress a girl? Trying to make yourself feel better? Do you really care about me? the moment, it's all the same to me--I'm getting food.

In all of these cases, though, the act is voluntary. Unlike the tax idea proposed by one of your debaters...such a tax likely would be mandatory, so even if I truly *didn't* want to give, I'd be forced to do so. Voluntary charity is always better than forced charity (which is really an oxymoron, when you think about it).

Anonymous said...

What was it Penn said, "It's amaz­ing to me how many peo­ple think that vot­ing to have the gov­ern­ment give poor peo­ple money is com­pas­sion. Help­ing poor and suf­fer­ing peo­ple is com­pas­sion. Vot­ing for our gov­ern­ment to use guns to give money to help poor and suf­fer­ing peo­ple is im­moral self-right­eous bul­ly­ing lazi­ness.

Peo­ple need to be fed, med­icated, ed­u­cated, clothed, and shel­tered, and if we're com­pas­sion­ate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forc­ing other peo­ple to do what you think is right. There is great joy in help­ing peo­ple, but no joy in doing it at gun­point."