I run a group at my high school called the Compassion Club. We try to bring more compassion to the school’s student body – but especially to gay and questioning students. (My Catholic School cannot have a gay-straight alliance. This is the work-around. If you get hung up on this, you are going to miss the point of this article – let it go.)
At a particularly heated meeting last year, two issues got brought up.
In the first, a student had gotten accosted. Someone said to him, “John, do you know the word gay? It means happy. So, are you happy John?”
In the second incident, a student in the group mentioned how someone went up to the blackboard and a student sneezed while muttering “faggot” under their breath.
In both cases the students told me how angry they were. They wanted to hit somebody. I agreed with their sentiments. “Of course you want to,” I said. “Of course you want to slug somebody.”
I tried to explain to them the need to respond from the tenderness of our hearts – after all, we are the Compassion Club. I offered that in both cases they could have said: “What you are saying is hurtful to me.”
This was a foreign idea to my students; they didn’t realize they could express themselves in this way. So, we practiced. I went around the circle and told them that I would cough out something derogatory and mean, and they would get a chance to practice standing up for themselves with compassion and love.
I told them that I wanted them to say something that stems not from their anger, but from their love. I even fed them the line, prompting them to say, “That really hurts when you say that” in response to the hurtful statements.
Of the ten students who were sitting with me at lunchtime, maybe two were able to actually get those words out. The rest, in an optimal situation of being in a staged ‘bullying’ incident, got too mad to react with love.
My student knew the right thing to do, but even in a simulation couldn’t do it.
So, here’s a question: how do we train kids to have compassion? How do we get kids to understand that the right response is the loving, honest response? I don’t know the answer. But I promise I’m working on it. All I know how to do is to model it. (If you have better answers or suggestions, feel free to e-mail me and let me know.)
The only way I can think of that we can bring more love into the world is by the act of love. We need to act lovingly. We need to BE LOVE for there to be more love in the world. There is a famous song “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love“. I’d like to adapt that song to say: “They should know we are good people by our love.”
This week’s #wisdom_biscuit:
Show the world some more love.