Archive for Saturday, December 4, 2004

Faith forum

December 4, 2004


How can I develop compassion for those who hurt me?

Learn to see reality and put forgiveness into practice

Charles Gruber, Lawrence resident, is a student of Zen Buddhism, Sufism and Judaism:

I understand compassion to be an attitude of "How could it be otherwise?"

When I accept a situation as it is, then I can suspend my judgment, suspend my opinion, suspend my self-righteousness and suspend my arrogance.

This does not imply unwillingness to act for change on my part. It merely implies willingness to see things as they are, rather than as they appear to be when filtered through my illusions and assumptions.

When I see things as they are, especially my own internal issues, then my heart opens and compassion appears. When my heart opens and compassion appears, then I am safe, you are safe, we are safe. Internal safety is the progenitor of compassion toward others.

Now, though these ideas may be useful, an action plan is necessary to answer the original question: How can I develop compassion for those who hurt me?

The answer, of course, is forgiveness.

So, my friend, start broadly to practice. Then get local to have effect. Then get personal to transform. For instance, try to forgive the Original Farmer for making avocado pits too large.

Then try to forgive the Original Insect Maker for chiggers and ticks.

Then try to forgive your brother-in-law for being cranky with you on the phone the other day.

Then try to forgive your dog for needing to go out too early this morning.

Then fasten your seat belt; the next action is to forgive yourself. Out loud. Gently. One wound at a time.

Send e-mail to Charles Gruber at

Direct thoughts of kindness toward those who hurt us

Judith Roitman, guiding teacher of the Kansas Zen Center, 1423 N.Y.:

Every Zen center in the world chants the Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. Its first sentence says Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is saved from suffering and distress.

Avalokitesvara is the Bodhisattva -- a figure who having already attained enlightenment postpones entrance into Nirvana to assist others along the way -- of compassion. An androgynous figure, he/she is a popular figure in the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon, an ideal to attain in our lives.

While it's temporarily satisfying to obsess about the person who has wronged us crawling for miles over broken glass to beg forgiveness, in the long run this constricts every aspect of our lives. Without compassion, our distress continues endlessly.

Avalokitesvara roughly translates as "perceives the world's sounds." This is the source of compassion. If you really listen, the suffering of others is apparent. Compassion arises as naturally as breathing.

There is a useful technique to use when we obsess destructively about those who have hurt us. When destructive thoughts arise, direct love and kindness toward the people who hurt us.

As our obsession lifts, we can go deeper into the matter: Suffering begets suffering. The people who hurt us did it because of their pain. Then it hits us -- we are not different. They are just like us. Their pain is our pain.

In that moment, compassion arises. One piece of the cycle can end, at least for a little while. We may never become friends. Their behavior may not change. But at least we are no longer part of that particular chain of suffering. We can say: This suffering stops here. I am not passing it on.

Send e-mail to Judith Roitman at

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