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THE IMPORTANCE OF COMPASSION

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMPASSION

According to a comprehensive study from the University of Michigan, we are about 40 percent less empathetic than people in the 1980s, with the biggest drop-off in empathy occurring after the year 2000.

Sarah Konrath, lead on this study, suggests that the most recent generation isn’t as empathetic because they’re more self-absorbed. She believes they’re the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history.”

Shouldn’t we become more concerned about the “disconnect” occuring in today’s youth?

Scientists have discovered that a sense of power shuts down a part of the brain that helps us connect with others.

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Dacher Keltner, a social psychologist at University of California, Berkeley, explains, “What we are finding is power diminishes all varieties of empathy.”

The idea that empathy (seeing another being suffer and allowing ourselves to feel that being’s pain) causes us to feel uncomfortable, makes it unattractive in today’s world where most are focused on making their lives as comfortable as possible.

I think we’ve all experienced those “ah-ha” moments when we feel a strong, invisible nudge upon on our shoulder. That’s how I felt driving down River Road when the car ahead of mine made a definite swerve into the opposing lane in an effort to hit a cat that was sitting in the road. They hit and killed the cat.

It was difficult to ascertain from behind, but my best guess is they were in their late teens, early twenties and out for a joy ride. I could, however, clearly see arms waving around in the air in a triumphant manner.

I was greatly disturbed by this incident, not only because of the needless death of the cat but equally the obvious lack of compassion possessed by the occupants riding in the car.

Why is it, do you suppose, that so many children are becoming less compassionate? What would possess someone not only to senselessly take a life, but to enjoy the act of killing, as if they had earned a game point?

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Dr. Albert Schweitzer, theologian, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary said, “There slowly grew up in me an unshakable conviction that we have no right to inflict suffering and death on another living creature unless there is some unavoidable necessity for it, and that we ought all of us to feel what a horrible thing it is to cause suffering and death out of mere thoughtlessness. And this conviction has influenced me only more and more strongly with time. I have grown more and more certain that at the bottom of our heart we all think this, and that we fail to acknowledge it because we are afraid of being laughed at by other people as sentimentalists, though partly also because we allow our best feelings to get blunted. But I vowed that I would never let my feelings get blunted, and that I would never be afraid of the reproach of sentimentalism.”

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Children learn by example. Teaching children to be kind to other people and animals is of paramount importance to our society’s evolution and progress. Kindness is an essential part of our children’s development into decent, responsible, respectful human beings.

Neglecting to care for an animal properly is concerning. To brutalize an animal is alarming, considering we are supposedly the superior species, gifted with intellect and the ability to reason.

When we witness a child treating an animal with disrespect, we should pay attention.

Everyone is born with their compassion switch in the “ON” position. As we begin to experience life most of us learn quickly that it hurts to open up. It hurts to feel. Consequently, many decide to turn their compassion switch to the “OFF” position. It is less painful not to feel. It is less painful to simply look the other way.

S.P.A. believes that we, as rescuers, are much like Johnny Appleseed, carrying a satchel on our backs filled with tiny seeds of compassion. When we see an animal suffering, we feel that it is our responsibility to empathize with that animal and actively extend a helping hand.

It takes trees many years to grow, but eventually they produce fruit and more seeds germinate, and soon one tree begets two trees begets eight trees. A single tree can create a forest... in time.

S.P.A. encourages everyone to become strong advocates of kindness. We’re hoping that you will attempt to plant as many seeds of compassion as possible throughout this new year. It may take awhile but each seed that is planted throughout the course of each day will eventually mature and touch hundreds, if not thousands of living beings in ways we can only begin to imagine.

We must teach our children to value their connection with animals and with other human beings.

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