149. Compassion - It's Personal

Introduction —

Compassion is personal.  Extending compassion to another person is a deeply personal act that reveals much about our self to another without thought of any return.  Receiving acts of compassion is also deeply personal because we humbly know at once that the giver considers him/herself as though he or she were in my place.  What is it that motivates our impulse-decision to act in compassion?

Deductively, we know that actions are always preceded by decisions that are based on beliefs – our interpretations of a set of values.  Even decisions that are conceived in a millisecond are formulated from a set of values, values that are often invisibly assumed in our thinking.

Compassion seems to be one of several behaviors that are innate to our species from the earliest of times.  Though compassion may be an innate behavior, the will to initiate acts of compassion does not come about unconsciously as some automatic reaction.  As with any decision, a set of values underlie the impulse-decision to reach out to another in compassion.  It seems reasonable to accept that the value system that motivates our decision to express compassion is innate as well.  It is a part of our heredity that gives us the capacity to act compassionately.  Unfortunately, we often see where compassion is desperately needed but none is given.

The intention of the following article is to explore compassion as innate to our being; and, to explore what arouses our impulse of compassion.  We will begin by examining what we know already about the values that underlie the sustainability of our species long history.

The Values that have Sustained Our Species [1]  —

Quality of Life — While life is fundamental to survival and continued existence, it is the quality of life that makes life worth living and gives life meaning.  Quality of life is the primary value, with personal growth and equality being the secondary values.

Growth — Personal growth is essential for improving our quality of life.  To be human is to strive to grow into our innate potential.  Our yearning to grow ensures that our innate potential becomes expressed and fulfilled, and collectively encourages an improving quality of life for everyone – progress.

Equality — Equality is inherent in the value of life.  We give equal value to each individual, and we would seek to provide a more equitable opportunity to every individual to develop their innate potential, as we would our own.  Symbiotically, each individual is seen as a “social asset” whose contributions to society ensure that society becomes socially sustainable, and society’s contribution to the individual supports their growth to make that contribution.

Characteristics of these Three Core Values —

Self-Evident — These three values are self-evident similarly as those stated in the famous sentence in the United States Declaration of Independence,  We hold these truths (values) to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Universal — These values are universal to all people of all races, cultures, ethnicity, nations, and genders.  Ask anyone in any city or countryside of any nation anywhere on earth if they would like to enjoy a better quality of life, to grow into the potential that they brought into the world at birth, and to do so equally as any other person would or could.  The answers are universally the same.  Everyone wants an improving quality of life, to grow into their potential and to do so equally as anyone else.

Irreducible — These three values are the primary values of our species that have no subordinate values to support them.  The pursuit of an improving quality of life, growth, and equality provide the foundation for human motivation [2] as interpreted by the individual and express themselves in a hierarchy of needs.

Innate —  Even though I cannot prove it, evidence seems to suggest that these three values are innate to our species and are perhaps embedded in our DNA.[3]  They have motivated us, individually, to make improvements in our quality of life, whether materially or socially, and have collectively created immense “progress” for societies and civilizations.

Timeless — These values seem to have been innate to our species from its earliest beginnings.  We can safely predict that these same values will continue to motivate us forward to enjoy an ever-improving quality of life, and to grow into our innate potential.

The Secondary Value-Emotions that Make Us Human — Humane
                                Empathy       Compassion     "Love"
NOTE:  Love is the desire to do good to others. *I put “love” in quotation marks because love is the summation of its secondary values:  Honesty, truthfulness, respect, loyalty, faithfulness, recognition, acceptance, appreciation, validation, discretion, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, authenticity, vulnerability, genuineness, listening, supporting, sharing, consulting, confiding, caring, tenderness and many more.  *(Source:  Sacred Relationships, A Guide to Authentic Loving, by Daniel Raphael, 1999)

 Equality  Provides the Gateway to  Empathy, Compassion, and “Love”
The reason that all people are so sensitive to issues of equality is that we have the innate capacity of empathy – to “feel” or put our self in the place of another and sense what that is like, whether that is in anguish or in joy.  Feeling that, we sense an inner impulse to act in compassion, to reach out to the other and assist them in their plight.  We generalize empathy and compassion toward all of humanity with the term “Love” – the capacity to care for another person or all of humanity, as we would for our self.

Our motivation for equality is also stimulated when we compare our own life to that of others and see that the quality of their life is “better” or “worse” than our own.  Our sense of inequality then rises within us to motivate us to seek equality.

Empathy, compassion, and “Love” emanate from the core value Equality.  It is the nexus of our “head” and “heart” energies that  integrates both centers to support and nurture our holistic integration as a person who is “fully human – humane.”  This holism enables us to see others as we see our self without being competitive.  This is the true essence of “equality.”  It is the source of our sense of “oneness” with others, and enables us to extend our compassion to others in the most ennobling expressions, as example with Nobel Laureates for Peace.

To seek to improve our quality of life, to grow and to do so equally as any other person could or would, to have a sense of empathy for others, and then to reach out in compassion to assist them, and to “Love” the humanity in all others, that is evidence of being fully human.  Being fully human, these value-emotions come as a package:  When we feel empathy for another, our immediate response is to provide an act of compassion, because we have a connection to all others of our species that we often name as our “love for humanity.”

What is remarkable about these three value-emotions is that while they are subjective in nature, in reality they can be objectively measured when we observe the secondary values they generate:  acceptance, appreciation, recognition, validation, respect, loyalty, faithfulness, trust, authenticity, vulnerability, genuineness, self-identity, and identity of others, and many more.  These secondary emotional-responses are what make “love” love!

 The Three Core Values of Social Sustainability —

Seeking an improving quality of life, to grow into the innate potential we brought into life, and to do so equally as anyone else would or could prepare the stage for the expression of the secondary value-emotions.

When people suffer and their very existence is in jeopardy, when an improving quality of life is not possible, and when growth is put off and equality is absent, it is very rare that the value-emotions of empathy, compassion, and “Love” are expressed.  When people are able to pursue an improving quality of life, to begin growing into their innate potential with an equal ability to do so, then empathy, compassion, and “Love” are able to come into expression.  The core values that have sustained our species set the stage for the individual’s capability to express their innate value-emotions of empathy, compassion, and “Love.”

When families, communities, and societies have attained a relative state of social, political, and economic stability, they, too, become capable of expressing the core value-emotions similarly as do individuals.  To the contrary, though, what we see from observing the behavior of organizations is not consistent with that premise.  Something is surely missing when organizations of great means do not act compassionately.  Organizations have not come to appreciate these six values as ultimately necessary to support their own sustainability and that of societies, as they have for our species.

Our species will be sustained into the millennia of the far future simply by procreation, invention, and adaptation.  For organizations and societies to become sustainable, they must take the extra step to incorporate the three core values of social sustainability into their operations.  Social-societal, political-governmental, and financial-economic organizations provide the necessary supports for a functional society.  But, that does not assure those organizations or their host societies will become sustainable into future millennia.  One critical element is missing:  Organizations do not have an innate set of socially sustainable values to support option-development, choice-making, decision-making, or action-implementation to support their sustainable existence.  Has long-term sustainability ever been an intention of the vision and mission or operating philosophy of organizations?

If we want to see an explosion of compassion in our societies, particularly democratic societies, then we must, for example, convince all organizations, corporations, foundations of all types, and governmental agencies of the necessity of adopting the three core values of social sustainability to assure their long term existence into the far distant future; and to use the three value-emotions as the criteria for decision-making and action that qualify their actions as being empathic, compassionate and “Loving” toward all of humanity as individuals do.

People are Innately Good.  Just as the three core values of social sustainability (quality of life, growth, and equality) are innate to every person of every race, culture, ethnicity, nationality, and gender, the three core value-emotions are innate as well, and not learned behaviors.  They exist in us as an impulse to do good to others.  They are proof that people are innately good.  We want peace for others, for example, as much as we want peace for ourselves because we are wired with the values that make us human – humane.

These three core value-emotions clearly identify us as social individuals rather than asocial or antisocial beings.  Their expression is evidence of being socialized — to care for others equally as we do for our self — to be humane.  The exceptions are those who received bad socialization and learned predatory values as they were being raised; those who developed negative interpretations of themselves and others; those who have chosen to be other than innately good; or are mentally defective.

Quality of Life, Growth and Equality and  The Three Value-Emotions 
Conscious application of the three core values of social sustainability is enough for families, communities, and societies to achieve long-term social stability and eventually social sustainability.  However, achieving that status does not automatically assure that they will automatically become more compassionate and humane.  Yes, they would surely become “just” societies but that does not assure that they will also become compassionate or humane.

Clearly, if the best of human nature is humane, sensitive enough to be empathic and able to give and receive compassion, then should we not also expect our communities, societies, and organizations to reflect the same qualities?  How else can we meaningfully engage widespread problems of social justice, social equity, what is fair, and the common good?  Those social problems can only be engaged with fairness and lack of bias when we use the values that are universal to all people of all races, cultures, ethnicity, nationality, and gender.

 Compassion as an Expression of  Maturity, Social Evolution, and Peace —

In expression, empathy, compassion, and “Love” support the development of a higher quality of life for our self and for others.  These value-emotions provide us with the motivating energy to grow into more complete, mature, and functional individuals.  They allow us to see the common good, social equity, and social justice as societal rather than selfishly personal.  Their expression demonstrates that all others are as valuable (equal) as we are and allow us to express the highest ennobling qualities of human nature at its best — to give example to others that encourages their intra- and inter-personal growth.  With these self-sustaining value-emotions, we have the direction and motivation from which to develop highly positive family dynamics before the arrival of children; and a loving, compassionate, and empathic means to validate holistic growth in individuals, families, communities, and societies.

When you see evidence of these positive emotions in action, you are seeing evidence of the development of maturing personalities, families, and communities.  The positive interpretations of these value-emotions of social sustainability then become constructive to the social and emotional maturity of individuals, families, communities, and societies.

Peace allows us to be more open and engaging within our self and with others.  It promotes the inner development, growth, and maturity of our self, leading us to the accumulation of living-wisdom that is essential to guide new generations.  Open, confident, socially competent, and compassionate individuals are the essential elements of social leadership, to lead others into actions that sustain families, communities, and societies in peace.

In times of peace, our compassionate acts promote social integration rather than social separation.  They are the innate foundations of peace that are necessary to become fully human as socialized individuals, communities, and nations.  These value-emotions provide the social lubricant that is essential for the smooth functioning of families, communities and societies, and their sustainability into the future.

Only in times of relative peace can we express the full potential of these six values that urge us onward to achieve a better quality of life, to grow into our innate potential and to do so equally as would anyone else.  We hunger for peace because until peace exists, we cannot become fully human.  The full creative expression of the potential we brought into life as individuals and whole societies cannot be accessed and developed until social stability and peace come into existence.  In other words, we are not fully human in times of war, conflict, aggression, trauma, or personal conflict.

The three core values of social sustainability provide the foundation for the three core value-emotions to become fully expressed in times of social stability and peace.  Peace will only emanate when the innate goodness of others is not only recognized as a potential, but encouraged to be developed.  Peace is not possible without these three value-emotions being existent and functioning in reality.  These value-emotions are fundamental to what we become as individuals, families, communities, societies and nations, which will not become evident until peace becomes pervasive.

 Conclusion —

The three value-emotions of social sustainability are what is needed to fulfill the three core values of social sustainability.  This only becomes apparent to us when our acts of compassion actually improve the quality of life of the other and support their growth into wholeness and peace as an equal of any one, including our self, and encompasses them with the generalized form of “Love” that we have for all of humanity, as we do for our self.


[1] Raphael, Daniel. 2015. Social Sustainability HANDBOOK for Community-Builders. Infinity Press
ISBN: 978-0-692-41640-2        ISBN: 978-1-4951-6048-6 (epub).
[2] ibid, p. 28.
[3] Extensive scientific research conducted by the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University reveals a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates that compassion is “hardwired” in human DNA.   (http://ccare.stanford.edu/)