February 20, 2015 by Katia
A friend who knows me like the back of her hand once told me that I had an uncanny ability verging on talent to see the tragic in every situation. To clarify, she wasn’t accusing me of being especially pessimistic, negative or a complainer, she was simply making an astute observation clear to her and myself – possessors of context spanning the last twenty years or more – about having an overly developed sense of compassion which constantly acts up. I am often reminded of that comment when I hear a sudden vulnerable stutter of uncertainty or self doubt in a close person’s voice or notice that extremely old looking couple on the street supporting each other, you know them, the old leading the old, and feel that familiar flare up.
I used to think that I was abnormal for experiencing that side of life in full volume. I know that my parents posses different versions of the same x-ray vision, cutting through the external fluff and looking straight into the heart of the matter, the soul. But is it an extraordinary ability or a shortcoming? Do we really want the volume turned up on those aspects of life when there’s already The News and our own every day struggles and a myriad of other opportunities to feel bad? And does compassion make you feel bad or good, anyways? I don’t know. I struggle with answering these questions. Even more so since adding my very own citizens to this world and observing them taking it all in.
Certainly capable of relating to the conventionally sad in ways typical of much older children, my five-year-old is also endowed with the ability to fully appreciate with his entire heart and whole being the sadness that is obscured to less sensitive eyes, that basement level sadness.
I think that I first realized it when my then two-year-old son burst into tears standing on his toddler bed and rubbing his eyes while commentating “that makes me feel GRUSTNAYA”* having just listened to Beethoven’s Für Elise on the musical book that my mother, visiting from Israel at the time, bought him as a gift. There had been numerous instances since where I witnessed, with a heart that sinks and soars at the same time, the workings of his own overly active sense of compassion.
I remember that time we watched Honey I Shrunk the Kids. I remember him watching the giant bee attack the kids and completing the plot line in his mind. I remember him bursting into tears of sorrow over the bee’s inevitable demise. Does being overly compassionate mean identifying with both the “good guy” and the “bad guy”? Does it mean understanding that sometimes this juxtaposition is completely artificial?
Should compassion be tamed if you’re overly compassionate? IS there such thing as being overly compassionate? Would overly compassionate mean taking in everything that merits empathy, pity, attention and goes by unnoticed, transforming yourself momentarily into a sieve thus recognizing, validating and honouring it as deserving of attention? Is that what being overly compassionate means? And does that frequent sifting eventually erode you, turning you into someone less capable of experiencing happiness? Maybe. Or maybe the ability to feel things deeply adds dimensions to your soul and enhances living. Maybe it makes you able to relate to literary characters more easily and experience the joy of reading in a more profound way. Maybe it makes your friendships and random interactions on the train, street, school, workplace more meaningful and fulfilling. Maybe it makes you see beauty more readily and take it in with more gratefulness.
Is being overly compassionate an innate quality or a learned one? Should I, based on genetics and learned behaviours, expect my two-year-old (who won’t stop asking “wot happen to Ben- wot happen to Ben – wot happen to Ben?” whenever his brother is crying and won’t let any answer satisfy him until he’ll eventually walk up to him and place a worried, comforting hand on his shoulderbellyhead) to transition from regular healthy compassion to being overly compassionate? Should I tame his compassion? Should I tame theirs in attempt to save them from too much pain? Is compassion good or bad, anyways? And what about too much compassion?
Should I look inward instead?
Activate my own internal monitor and turn the volume up to scrutinize my own reactions. More carefully choose them. Decide that nature, something, someone gave my kids a blessed ability to feel things deeply. And just let it be.
* The conjugation into female form of the adjective “sad” in Russian.
This post is part of a blessed initiative 1000 Voices for Compassion conjured up by the wonderful Yvonne Spence and Lizzi Rogers at Considerings. Please visit their blogs and consider joining this huge campaign. We could all use more compassion.
The link up hosts are:
Roshni AaMom http://www.indianamericanmom.com/
Kristi Rieger Campbell http://www.findingninee.com/
Crystal Cook http://www.theqwietmuse.com
Erin Fangboner https://chronicallysickmanicmother.wordpress.com/
Gene’o Gordon https://justgeneo.wordpress.com/
Jen St Germain Leeman http://driftwood-gardens.com/
Michelle Liew http://gettingliteral.com/
Lisa Listwa http://www.themeaningofme.com/
Pooja S Mulleth https://ilirianravings.wordpress.com/
Katie Paul http://head-heart-health.com/
Lizzi Rogers https://summat2thinkon.wordpress.com/
Yvonne Spence http://yvonnespence.com/
Leah Vidal https://littlemisswordy.wordpress.com/
T.A. Woods http://penpaperpad.com/