Turning Pain Into Compassion

June 17, 2016

Image courtesy Laure Ferlita

It’s been nearly a week since the unthinkable events at Pulse in Orlando, just an hour and a half from where I live. It feels pointless to write about happiness—let alone simple pleasures and everyday adventures—when we face one unthinkable tragedy after another—shootings, natural disasters, armed conflict, suffering on a scale we can’t imagine and feel helpless to alleviate.

No one is a stranger to suffering. Just as we are united in our desire to live happy lives, we are also united in suffering. Each one of us hides some kind of wound inside. We all know how it feels to hurt, feel helpless, rage against the universe, or try to find meaning in the face of senselessness. We should not turn suffering and pain into anger and hate, though that sometimes feels impossible. What should we do instead?

 “You take it all in. You let the pain of the world touch you and you turn it into compassion.”* 

In the aftermath of the Pulse shooting, people and organizations are turning pain into compassion. For example:

The Tampa Bay Rays have dedicated tonight’s game to the victims of the Orlando shooting, and are donating the proceeds to the Pulse Victims Fund. The game sold out (something that doesn’t often happen). 

The Go Fund Me account for the victims set a record, collecting more than 4 million dollars. 

And more personally and poignantly, here’s Laure Ferlita’s way of coping. She wrote: “Here's my idea—I intend to pay kindness forward 49 times for each of the lives lost. Then I'll pay kindness forward 53 more times for each of those injured. That's 102 acts of kindness paid—deliberately—into a world that seems to have tilted ever so slightly off its axis.” (Click here to read the entire post. Click here if you’d like learn the names of those who lost their lives.) 

Yes, there is evil in this world. But there is also good. There is kindness and love, and we can decide to be on the side of kindness and love by our words and our actions. Decide to turn pain into compassion. Decide.

*The sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, quoted in When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron.

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  1. Thanks for posting this, Kathy, and I would say now, more than ever, is the time to be writing about happiness and simple pleasures because we need to be reminded of them. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You're most welcome, Laure. Thank you for your post--I'm hoping we'll stir up a little kindness between us.