The tragic, unconscionable shooting in Tucson last week has raised questions about how hateful political rhetoric, particularly fueled by the media, breeds hateful human behavior.
Buddhists call it practicing right speech; Jews refer to avoiding lashon hara (literally "evil tongue). There is a slippery trajectory from gossip to hate speech, from unkind words to unkind actions.
When we practice compassion, we are building our capacity for genuine empathy, and in doing so, perhaps we can reduce the likelihood of lashing out or shutting out others.
Once my grandmother said some stinging unkind words toward my mother; afterward she felt such remorse that she ordered a pickled tongue from the local deli and had it shipped to my mom with a note that said, "I am sorry. I will watch my tongue in the future. Love, Mom."
Karen Armstrong said,
"The word compassion actually means to undergo or experience with someone else...have compassion for yourself. You're on the right track if you just keep trying."
What is it like to feel compassion for others? For yourself? What is challenging about this and what is comforting? What or whom can support you in this practice?