If we can cultivate a concern for others, keeping in mind the oneness of humanity, we can build a more compassionate world. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This quote is about how we might build a more compassionate world. It starts with the oneness of humanity. We are all one group, one people, one species. While it may be convenient to break us into smaller groups from time to time, we must keep in mind that these divisions are temporary and artificial.
By remembering that we are all one, we can more easily be concerned for one another. This is showing compassion for others, and it is easy to do for those with whom you are close. It can be a little more challenging when they aren’t as close, or are from a different group or division of humanity.
The quote hopes we can work on our concern for others while keeping in mind that we are all the same. In this way, we can become one people, and care about what happens to everyone else. Yeah, it’s idealistic, but we have to be trying to do something, why not dream big? Even if we don’t get there, we will have gone somewhere, and moved us all in the correct direction, and I believe that is a good thing.
Why is concern for others important?
Consider what would happen in a society where there was no concern for others. Everyone was out for themselves. No one could expect any mercy or any comfort. Now let’s revisit the question. Why is concern for others important? Because we are humans, not animals.
In the wild, some animals will fight each-other over food, even to the point of injury or death. As humans, we should be better than that. We should be able to deal with each-other in a more civilized manner that that, don’t you think?
Even in the wild, there are many animals who show compassion, at least for those of the same tribe, troop, other division of their species. On rare occasions, they may even cross species lines. If they can do it, surely we can as well. And a vision of a world full of concern for others is certainly better than the one where there is none, right?
Where can I apply this in my life?
There is plenty of room in our human hearts to care for others, and even for our pets. Yet for some reason, we have a tendency to have rather narrow boundaries for our concern. If they aren’t one of ‘us’ we are generally not as concerned, and the less like us, the less we concerned we tend to be.
Does that person look like us? Do they talk like us? Do they believe as we believe? Do they act in a similar manner? Do they remind us of ourselves? If the answer is yes to all of these, we tend to find it much easier to be concerned about a person and their situation.
Some of us have managed to move past some of that, and can show concern for people who don’t look at all like us. But we all draw the line somewhere, or at least everyone I know does. What about you, has there ever been a point in time when you really didn’t care?
Take a moment to think about the times when you just didn’t care. Why was that? Were they that different from you? Was your emotional state part of the issue? It’s easy to have no concern about someone when you’ve just broken off a romantic relationship, right?
But is not being concerned about them right? Is it the correct, ethical, and proper thing to do? Whether it’s someone who is just too different, too scary, or too hated (despised, loathed, what’s your favorite word?), is it really proper to ignore them?
We all have limits, that’s the bad news. The good news is that the limits are movable. Like someone who never tried to do push-ups, the first time is hard. But over time, you can do more and more, as your strength grows and your technique improves.
It’s the same with our emotions. Some people are very good at being helpless because they practice a lot. If we start practicing our concern, we will get better at it. What can you do to practice? Where in your life do you have a tendency to not be concerned?
There are plenty of things you can do to help work your concern muscle, to help it build in strength. What is right for you? I don’t know. If you don’t know either, might I suggest you try something, and see how it works. Then try again and again, refining what you do each time, until you find something which works for you.
The key to this quote is the word “more.” We can only build a more compassionate world if we become more ourselves. We need to build our concern for others until it becomes strong. The stronger we get, and the more of us who become strong, the more compassionate the world will become.
We will not likely get there, to a perfect world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work towards a worthy goal. And all we have to do is improve ourselves, just a little bit. Are you willing to try?