Even an A**hole Needs Compassion

This thought came to me about a month ago after my favorite artist, Kanye West had a rant. If you know Ye, then you know this is nothing new. What was different is that on November 21st, he was hospitalized. Those who cared speculated. Mental illness? Exhaustion? Depression? Scam? No one really knew.

But there was a lot of commentary, including my FB post.

fb_post_ye

For the most part, people responded in kind and added some food for thought on if they really felt compassion for the other entertainers I’d listed. But there were a couple of people who disagreed with offering Kanye empathy at all. Instead, they said this:

I don’t know that I agree that arrogant pricks need compassion. I think they need what they lack the most- a reality check and self-reflection.

Wait. I thought he was just an asshole. Did I miss some news?

To which I replied: Even an asshole needs compassion. But do they? That’s my question. How do you determine to whom you provide or deny compassion?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sitting high and judging. I get it. For a long time, my father didn’t receive words wrapped in understanding from me because I didn’t think he deserved it. The level of care and concern I offered was in direct proportion to what he’d given me the past 25 years. That doesn’t mean he didn’t need it though. It also doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve it.

Maybe you dole out sympathy based on how much you can relate to the person. For example, when I see myself in others, then I have a ready urge to support. There’s common ground with my younger female friends who harbor daddy issues, like I did. I listen more. I advise when needed. I rarely judge them. Compassion flows because they reflect a former me. But if I’m not vibing with someone? I have to dig a little deeper to understand who they are and what they’re feeling. Still, that doesn’t mean they don’t need compassion.

These are my last questions for the year. Do jerks need compassion? Or is the compassion we show to others based on our perception of their behavior and who we think they are? Is it possible to offer compassion to people simply because they are human beings? Cause we all know what a human being feels like. Right?

~kg

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81 thoughts on “Even an A**hole Needs Compassion

  1. Thanks for your thoughtful post. As with many things in life, this issue too seems to be counter-intuitive. By that I mean that it seems those who deserve something the least are the ones who need it the most. The people in my life that I’ve worked the hardest on with respect to compassion definitely need it the most because they’re often seriously damaged people – that’s probably why they go and damage other people all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As with everything in my life, my answer to this is answered with a scene from a movie. Don’t know if you’ve ever seen V for Vendetta. Anyway, won’t bore you with the full details of the film (it actually isn’t a bore, fantastic film but anyway). These two women have been imprisoned by a totalitarian government because of their lewd lifestyle aka being homesexual, or having a thought that opposes the government in either way. The women are in separate cells and one women decides to write an autobiography of sorts on a roll of toilet paper. The last line of her story absolutely moved me,

    “But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you… I love you. With all my heart, I love you.”

    What I took from that line is that as human beings we have an inherent need to love each other. And in this case I think you express this love through respect. Someone who is suffering might not deserve your compassion because you feel like they haven’t earned it but they do deserve a measure of respect. I love Kanye and think he has lost his way but he does deserve our respect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw it quite some time ago. That quote is exactly it, right? I’m glad you raised the idea of earning respect too. I’ve started to believe that that’s a flawed logic as well. We should respect others because we are respectful ourselves, not because the other person respected us or earned it, you know? So, in that regard, what you’ve said here, is exactly what I was getting at. We should offer compassion, respect, whatever simply because.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post Kathryn and I’ve read the comments of others also with great interest.
    I’m not sure about this though. If someone became an asshole due to whatever happened to him/her in the past, is that an excuse to be one? Why do the ‘good’ souls always have to be the ‘bigger person’, be the compassion-ed ones, take the first step, … Is that what makes a person a good soul?
    Or is admitting you believe someone is an asshole and tell him/her you don’t like him/here and/or his/hers behavior the way to go?
    As for Kanye; I don’t like his choice to support Mr. Trump for instance, but I saw some fragments of him with Kim and her family and he can also be a warm person. Is it compassionate enough, if I say ‘He can be and do whatever he chooses, as long as he stays away from my little place of the globe’ ?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Patty! I think those are all great questions. What I was getting at here is that no matter if someone is a self-proclaimed a-hole, or if we deem the person one, s/he probably still deserves a bit of compassion. I think where we might get lost sometimes is compassion can vary. For example, I don’t have to invite the person to my home, but maybe I could be nice to him or her and offer a listening ear. I think we function on such extremes and end up either being empathetic, or not at all. Your final comment at the end might be a good way to go lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Compassion can, I think, be nuanced. We intuitively take into account the circumstances under which failings were bred, their severity, and their impact on others. Are the failings (the hurtful words, actions or omissions) a result of narcissism or merely ignorance? Were they intended to inflict harm (for instance, the way malicious gossip can) or did they merely cause harm accidentally (for instance, the way an ill-chosen remark, not meant to be overheard, might)? How much harm actually took place?

    We have all made mistakes. To the extent that compassion contains an element of empathy, we hope to encourage the individual who has erred, in effect, offering him/her a second chance. Our difficulty lies in distinguishing one-time errors from a pattern of bad behavior we do not wish to condone.

    Am I way off the mark?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t think you’re off the mark at all Anna. Part of this is what I was wondering. Is it okay to be so discerning when offering compassion, or can we empathize and/or sympathize with a person regardless of his or her story and reason why? It sounds like the answer is no for many. We seem to have to take into account a lot of working parts before we can say, “Hey…I see you and understand your situation,” or whatever you want to say and do to show compassion. And that’s perfectly fine because we all have our own backgrounds that influence how we treat one another. I do get the sense that perhaps we should move a little closer to offering compassion no matter what. I’m sure that would look as different as we do, but I feel as if we should try.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to confess that the $53 million debt influenced my response. There are children starving all over the world. That money could have done an awful lot of good. Mental illness is no excuse, in this context. Not as far as I can see. Millions of us have mental health issues across a broad spectrum, and do not spend so lavishly on ourselves.

        Compassion and justice rub shoulders, jockeying for space. We favor one at the expense of the other. It’s a delicate balance.

        In a moral context, forgiveness is a decision (not a feeling like compassion). Because Christians believe Christ died for their sins, they forgive — or try to forgive — even what is unforgivable, in human terms. The shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, NC was an example. Friends and families of the victims of an obvious hate crime forgave the shooter. The Amish school shooting in Lancaster, PA was another instance.

        Sorry. In case you haven’t noticed, I tend to get long-winded (LOL).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hmmm… great questions and points! I think assholes need compassion, as the lack of compassion may have made them into assholes to begin with.

    The word “empathy” can get a little fuzzy. I think it’s very precarious for most people: they can empathize as long as they make it about THEM. So another person’s problems become an opportunity for self reflection.

    I think we CAN show compassion for others, but our society is based on power and justice…which are anti-compassion. Showing compassion for everyone would require a complete revolution of thought.

    Here’s my take on Kanye: his mom died in November, and he has mental illness(es). He is a person and we should care for him. But we live in a world where destruction makes money. In his drive for fame, he fell out of touch…way out! Instead of condemning him, lets show compassion and condemn the reasons he might be doing this (i.e. celebrity culture, capitalism, etc).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. All of this right here ^^^ This is a nice summation of the problem and root cause. I like that you say our society is “anti-compassion.” I totally agree with that. Offering compassion, although America is a predominantly Christian nation, is seen as odd for some reason. Even though I’m just using Ye as an example, I agree with what you mention at the end. Root causes co-create situations that we then use to condemn a person.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Great point about Christianity and the thinness of compassion. I wonder if most people have read the word of Christ, as I know some deacons and preachers who speed past the homeless saying “get a job!” It’s not like Jesus was a Republican who made sure everyone had their immigration papers and a job before feeding the multitudes with fish and bread! He just did it. It’s sad that Christianity is watered down and not seen as being a bit more radical in the service of global compassion.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pre-Kim Kanye is one of my favorite artists. I can’t imagine what it’s like to walk in his shoes. I always give him a pass. He probably has so much unprocessed grief that it’s a miracle it has taken this long for him to break. He has my compassion and my prayers, Katherin.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think someone like the Dala Lama who has forgiven the Chinese after all they’ve done to his country can be at that state of total compassion. But for the rest of us, we’ve got to work at it.

    Having Parkinson’s, I feel for Kanya especially if it’s neurological but another part of me wants to tell him to grow up and get over it.

    So I guess I agree that we are compassionate to the degree of our experience and perception of the other person. Great Post!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks JC! Good point about the Dalai Lama. I think that’s why those “thought leaders” and “spiritual teachers” are such grand examples because like you say, the rest of us…well we tend to hold our compassion hostage and dole it out as we see fit. (As I type this I feel judgmental lol), but I hope you get what I’m saying.

      Hope your holiday weather hasn’t been as wonky as ours up here 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I certainly think everyone NEEDS compassion, but some deserve it more than others (I don’t mean for mental health problems etc, but when they get themselves into a mess of their own making). However, we ourselves are sometimes more capable of giving compassion than at other times. But we should always try – the act of giving does great things for the giver. Have a lovely holiday, K E🎄💕I loved this post

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Great question, K E. From my pov, compassion and an honest wake up call can go hand in hand. My spiritual teaching J-R has given me a wake up call every once in a while, with a lot of love present in every word. It worked 🙂

    MERRY CHRISTMAS K E! So grateful to know you. Blessings to you — Debbie

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Debbie! I think that’s the key, “with a lot of love present in every word,” because that maintains the compassionate part, I think. However, if there’s judgment, resentment and name-calling dripping from my every word, then I’m not sure there’s compassion either.

      Glad to see you made it to CA and I look forward to what this next calendar year brings to you. Happy to know you too luv! Happy Holiday season to you and your new adventure.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You know, it’s funny. One phrase that’s been super present for me is “Loving and Accepting Zone” – we had a sign up with this phrase in my office. It’s so important in this process of communicating, forgiving, and compassion, isn’t it? Anyway, bless you K E and thanks for the well wishes. You made me smile. 🙂 Love, Debbie

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Hey Kathy, I think compassion comes from a place of seeing another person suffer and having hopes that they find the tools/paths that will bring them to a better place, knowing that it is possible. With that perspective, there are 2 kinds of people I find it difficult to have compassion for – sociopaths and narcissists. I don’t know kanye and I’m sure to a large extent, what we ‘know’ is carefully orchestrated, but I’d say he falls on the extreme end of the narcissism spectrum. Narcissists and sociopaths I believe lack an ability to self reflect and hence change. Interestingly they also lack empathy but would drool reading a post where they are the subject.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s an interesting perspective Mek, because part of it sounds conditional: “having hopes that they find the tools/paths that will bring them to a better place, knowing that it is possible.” And I’m not sure that compassion is supposed to be a conditional situation, which is really what I was saying here. Going with your definition, I would still say that even sociopaths and narcissists need compassion because they too have a story that helped them create who they are. Love that you added a different opinion here.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I can’t speak for everyone and only having an unqualified guess that even if it isn’t overtly stated, there is a belief tied to compassion that change is possible even if it seems far out of reach. I have actually given this a lot of thought, personally knowing a narcissist and sociopaths and I’m not saying that casually. My ‘definition’ is that compassion is there if change is possible- and everything I’ve observed and read about narcissists and sociopaths doesn’t indicate they can change. I have no problem with saying my compassion is conditional and I’ll own whatever that makes me.

        Liked by 3 people

  11. As you well know I’m a gigantic fan of Ye’s. Great post and yes he is a human being and deserves compassion. I’m sure with the fame, money, cough cough The Kardashian’s life can get out of control. Giving Ye my nod as I listen to Stronger…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This brought to mind Einstein’s oft (mis)quoted thoughts on compassion, and as written in a 1950 letter to Robert S. Marcus, a man who was distraught over the death of his young son from polio:

    “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hariod! I’m appreciate this quote. What I keep thinking is what you’ve written here (and what I tried to show in my book). We think we’re different, but we’re not. We have to see ourselves as the same. Only thing is that I’m not sure we’ll ever get there completely. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Kathy, (yes! me again, sorry to be so greedy with my comments:)), but after reading this, it made me think that ‘compassion’ like ‘love’ is one of those words which is bandied about and means completely different things to different people. Evidence of this is the comment made by Reprobate Typewriter and their understanding of the word. And until everyone is in agreement by what they/we mean by ‘compassion’ we are not going to be able to fully answer your question. This makes sense to me, not sure everyone else will agree though! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I agree completely and had thought about that because of the conditions that people place on it. Similar to love, people love conditionally when it isn’t supposed to be that way, I don’t think. Love is love and RELATIONSHIPS are conditioned with boundaries, ya know? Views about compassion are similar, as you’ve observed based on the comments.

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      3. Kathy, Yes! Yes! Yes! 🙂 ‘Conditional’ has no place in the concept of ‘love’ or ‘compassion’ as we are now saying. You either love someone or you don’t. It shouldn’t be based on what they have done/are doing. OK, if someone upsets you, you hate the thing they have done, and you may decide you can no longer continue on that path, but should you stop loving them? What sort of a love is that? As Shakespeare said (and I’m quoting badly here) ‘Love does not bend with the remover to remove …’ Neither should compassion.
        btw, Merry Christmas Kathy! I think it is the 25th over there now?? 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Thankyou Marina; he is often misquoted, misattributed, and badly paraphrased, but I think the above is as near to verbatim as we can get – the handwritten letter from which it is extracted is rather difficult to decipher! Best wishes to you, too. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Hariod, this is a brilliant quotation and how apt. At one point in my own life, I thought compassion was only deserving of ‘good’ people. Bad people (who had offended/hurt me) deserved hell and damnation (and I think there are many who would feel that way), but with age and experience and wisdom comes a new take on ‘existence’ and I realise as your beautiful quote says, that we are all part of the whole. Compassion is something which is deserved by everyone and not just a chosen few. Marie

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks Marie, and I think the understanding you’ve arrived at is one that we each, if at all, arrive at only later in life. Saint Augustine conveyed a related vision most famously and challengingly in his dictum Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thank you, Hariod. You have sent me scuttling off to look up St Augustine’s ‘Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum’. I know you will be astonished to know that this is the first time I have heard of this. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      3. If I remember correctly, Marie, the context of St. Augustine’s dictum was a letter he wrote to a nunnery advising the head nun – who may have been his sister, I think – to be a bit more tolerant of all the wayward nuns under her charge.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Thanks Hariod. I smiled at the irony of the quote regarding Saint Augustine when I realised what it meant. I had illustrated it in my response to Kathy (25 December) about hating the thing that had been done and not the person who had done it.
        Life’s funny like that isn’t it Hariod?:)

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Yes, they deserve compassion, just not from me! hahahaahahaah

    I’m kidding. Kind of. It is hard for me to believe some of these Hollywood “situations”? I dunno what to call them. But sometimes I think it’s just a distraction. How do we, the regular everyday folk, R E A L L Y know what’s going on unless we have a close, reputable inside source? And, slight sidenote, but why do certain celebrities get all the attention when it comes to mental health?

    I think it’s a lil karma biting Kanye in the butt! But if he really is going through something, I do have a bit of compassion. I have compassion for anyone going through something like that and I hope he gets the rest and clarity and whatever else he needs.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. lol I hear you.

      I agree that we could never really know what “celebrities” are doing and going through and what’s orchestrated, but really, I’m not sure we ever know the people in our lives either, other than what they show us (I’ll stop there and consider that for another post).

      I think that’s a really good question about “some” celebrities getting attention for mental health and others just being dropped. Not quite sure why that is. Sometimes I think they just pick and choose who’s going to be the “poster child” for their time and roll with it.

      Karma indeed. Only reason I say that with certainty is because karma gets us all in the sense that whatever we put out there, we get back. So that’s all I’m saying about him and anyone else. If indeed something is wrong, then yeah, I feel a little bad man. And really if nothing is wrong and this is a stunt, then I still feel bad cause something is still wrong with him lol

      Liked by 2 people

      1. LOL I think he is brilliant, so gifted, troubled and lost and possibly overwhelmed with the status he’s been given.

        And it’s true about the people in our lives as well; we share only certain sides of ourselves with certain people, and I can say that very few people really know me.

        Liked by 2 people

  14. I don’t follow Kanye as an artist so I know nothing about him or his music/art. I also don’t keep up with the Kardasheans (however you spell it), so I don’t have that angle either. I only know what I hear on the Hollywood reports on the radio to and from work and occasionally on the news. With that said, I did feel compassion for him when I heard he’d had some kind of breakdown. Whatever it is that drives any highly creative person/genius is no doubt the same energy that drives their assholeness. The guy works like a crazy person it sounds like, his wife was tied up at gunpoint and robbed (I also felt compassion for Kim because it must have been terrifying) and he probably blamed himself for not protecting her. In the end they’re both human beings and I always say you couldn’t pay me enough money to be famous. I think most famous artists start out simply pursuing their passion with a single-minded focus and the fame sweeps them up. Of course I’m sure some start out simply wanting to be rich and famous but I think most are driven by the uncontrollable need to create. With that comes stuff.

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  15. I’m with you K 🙂
    We ALL need compassion and that includes pricks, a*holes, b*tches and everything in between.
    Jesus said, and LadyG will paraphrase, “Let he among you without sin cast the first stone.”
    I can assure you that anybody who is on an authentic spiritual journey has or will come to this same conclusion.
    But on the real…that boy ain’t quite been right since his mama passed.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. 🙌🏾🙌🏾 thank you. I try to steer clear of bringing religion into it, but I thought that’s what the Bible said. I didn’t think it said be compassionate towards people you like and agree with 😉 and yes, losing your mom can cause turmoil, especially if you don’t deal with it.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Lady G, I don’t think he was right when his mama was alive. And he certainly hasn’t improved since her passing. It could be that her passing left him with deep emotional scars which he ‘plays out’ because he doesn’t know how to deal with it. But seriously he was no saint before she passed either. Personally I think Kanye has unresolved issues, he has delusions of grandeur to name one of them. Maybe it is the way he has been wired and he cannot help himself.
      I err on the side of compassion for that young man. I would like to think if I lost my marbles, someone would have compassion on me and not judge me. Lady M speaks! 🙂

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Hey Kathy, thanks for agreeing! KanyI (get it?) just say that I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Rocking New Year!! :))))
        Lovely to have made your acquaintance this year. You have a great blog, you’re pretty wonderful. and I’m glad our paths crossed on WordPress. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

  16. Thats a great question. This is how I deal with A**holes….some people are A**holes, I can feel compassion for them, But I don’t excuse their sh** behavior towards others by saying, well they are who they are. I have compassion because they are human, but people choose what they say and how they treat others. I dont have a lot if time or energy for a**holes, but I do enjoy “teachable” moments when I encounter one. Not that it changes them, just helps me stay compassionate? Maybe? 😉

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Right. I agree that being compassionate doesn’t mean tolerating foolishness. I think sometimes people unconsciously choose words and actions but yes, that doesn’t necessarily excuse the behavior, nor does that mean we should have to d al with it. Love teachable moments for myself and others 🙏🏾

      Liked by 5 people

  17. I think it’s the word “compassion” that’s tripping people up. Maybe the word “sympathy.” Ultimately, the question is… Under what circumstances do I treat another human being badly or uncivilly because of something they’ve done, or some disagreement we’ve had?

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Reprobate Typewriter, I like what you’ve said, but I don’t think I understand what you are trying to say. Doesn’t compassion contain an element of sympathy and vice versa. How do you differentiate between the two? I’d love to hear your take on this.

      Liked by 6 people

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