They Deserve the Pain
Compassion, Not Judgement
By: T. Franklin Murphy | September 2016
We learn from observing the success and failures of others. We can do this with compassion and kindness, without condemning those that fail.
We struggle to navigate the complex choices of living—evaluating opportunities, avoiding risks, and hoping for success. Sometimes we make decisions from conscious deliberations; other times we automatically act. Either way, there is reason behind the action whether we can articulate the purpose or not; our behaviors are goal driven. Why then, if there is a reason, do we still act with impunity, making idiotic choices that derail dreams, upset the peace, and destroy relationships?
We might know what we must do to succeed; but then fail to do it. Life is complex—ever evolving. The rules we successfully used to guide today may become obsolete tomorrow, demanding adjustments, and new guiding wisdom. We constantly must scrutinize, drag impulses to the light and evaluate for effectiveness. Learning from complexity doesn’t have to be all from experience. We can also learn from others. But we learn with compassion, watching without critical condemnations. We see consequence of actions without knowing pasts contributing to the present.
Some mistakes will be made, not from laziness or stupidity, but because we courageously leave comfort zones to expand our competencies. We enter unexplored territory, stumble through new experiences and make mistakes. Other mistakes shouldn’t be so gracefully explained through courageous undertaking excuses. Our stumbling is self-inflicted. We either failed to prepare by carelessly ignoring well-grounded wisdom or just allowed other motivators to intrude on wisdom, and we do what we cognitively know we should not do.
As we delve into the complexities of life, acting in response to the dynamic environments, even during novel encounters, we have a wealth of resources to gather knowledge that can smartly guide us.
Personal experience provides the most salient lessons, painful consequences throb in the recesses of our mind. The light of successful pasts lingers. The human ability to communicate expands the transfer of knowledge, giving great troves of learning without the expensive practice of trial and error. We observe others, see their follies, and avoid their same mistakes to enhance the wisdom of our choices. Some people are adept at learning, carefully observing, extracting pertinent information from the actions and consequences; and then artfully applying the knowledge to their own lives.
We can gain wisdom by observing others—both successes and failures. We learn to avoid hurts and master opportunity, not from painful experience but through simple observation.
Some of my essays draw upon the successes and failures of others, occasionally evoking ire from readers, pointing to judgments used to extract wisdom from the pain of experience. I stand my ground. Behaviors have wonderful and hurtful consequences. Observing these connections in others doesn’t imply we disregard the underlying motivations—childhood traumas, biological short-comings, or social unfairness.
We observe others, see their follies, and avoid their same mistakes, enhancing our wisdom.
There’s a line that’s easy to cross during observation. We slip from curious observation to harsh judgments when we condemn the actor. The motivational reasons behind anyone’s behaviors are complex, beyond the capacity of an uninvolved observer to know. We may note the effect of unhealthy behaviors on futures but then take a momentous and gratuitous leap to assign worth, suggesting the sufferer deserves our condemnation. The observations shift from helpful observations to hurtful criticism, damaging the judger and the judged.
Societies can enact laws to protect citizens; they also should alleviate unfair burdens that create heavier challenges for some. I don’t have special insight to the appropriate governmental balance between welfare and punishment. But as individuals, casting stones of hate, dividing groups between us and them, we narrow our perspectives and ignore the complexities. Our fears interfere with compassion, hurting ourselves, the designated enemies, and our society.
By entertaining condescending views of others, we subjectively bestow superiority to ourselves, debasing the person of observation. These are status judgments. “I am better than this person.” Critical value judgment distracts attention from productive observations of learning. Our blatant and silent judgments signal insecurity, and misdirected attention, attacking rather than building.
Our hurt is personally relevant, stinging the soul, motivating action. While our pain is naturally prominent in the psyche, other people’s pain may go relatively unnoticed. But in the larger scheme of life, our individual pain doesn’t matter; it’s of no greater importance than anybody else’s pain. We all feel pain, and we all cry for relief. Whether pain is felt by a “mean” co-worker, a death-row inmate, an alcoholic, or a wealthy man, it’s still pain, and it still hurts.
We shouldn’t devalue the pain by assigning cause, placing blame, and dismissing the hurt, excusing their experience by denouncing them with a critical judgement, “They deserve the pain.”
We should observe and learn, acknowledging actions that invite disastrous endings; but our growing connection to others transforms receptiveness to pain, empathizing with the sufferer, sorrowing for any human suffering.
We must continue to learn, opening our mind to the nuances of others’ experiences. The expanding knowledge from observation contributes to our success, allowing for more efficient and constructive action. We still will stumble when chasing new opportunities. Courageous journeys include failing, but wise preparation limits the falls. We learn without hate, we observe without condemnation. As we offer this gift to others, many others, in turn, will offer the gift to us.
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