Have It Or You Don't?


This question has been rattling around my brain for a few weeks now & it keeps popping up in unlikely places.

It first came to me as a topic for much heated internal dialogue, after Connor's conference.
(because I'm oh-so neurotic and analytical like that).
His teacher asked us what qualities we like most about Connor.
My answer was his heart - his compassion.
And his teacher agreed and then she said:
That's something you either have or you don't.

I thought this most interesting of a statement.
And quite honestly, it's not something that I ever stopped to really think about before.
It may be elementary, but I've missed out on many things/thoughts that are elementary.

I haven't missed out on it for lack of having it.
That is one thing I can easily say about myself - I am compassionate.
Probably to a fault.

But the idea that people are out there, walking around right now, with no ability or chance of ever having compassion boggles my mind.

I've heard the ever popular
that's how you have sociopaths.

Agreed. I understand that is what makes them so.
But my mind wanders to the possibility that there is more than the lack of compassion at work there.
That the lack of it is a symptom (for lack of a better word).

My bleeding heart self feels that everyone is born with some semblance of compassion, but it is our context, or our nurture, that helps to foster it.
And maybe that is simply just an idealistic way of looking at it.
From the informal "data" that I have collected thus far, I seem to be the only one who thinks this.

I look at my kids - who clearly have compassion for others - and wonder if it is something they have simply learned. And then I wonder how? They have not seen me hand umbrellas out to strangers on a rainy day, they have not been with me when I have handed food out to a stranger.
I realize my compassion extends farther than these two scenarios.
But I wonder if they already had it - and we simply foster it.
Or if it is a completely learned quality/value?

So what say all of you out there?
Do you think compassion is something you either have or you don't?

8 ripples in the pond:

thailandchani said...

No. Can't say I agree with that. I think it's something that's developed with life experience or teaching.

Sociopaths are different. I've heard a theory that it is actually some chemical in the brain that's missing.

I've also heard that it's nature.. then nurture.

In short, everyone has the potential.

jen said...

i agree w/ Chani - i think that it can be taught for for those who must learn it it's often through their own hardships, a light goes on. that part still amazes me, that it's not already out there and obvious but yet it's not. but it can be. i see it all the time.

Joker The Lurcher said...

i go for the theory that it is innate but can be crushed or nurtured. my son has always been compassionate but sometimes needs things explained as to how he might look at a particular situation differently if he is being a bit hard-line...

Wayfarer Scientista said...

hmmm...I have to ponder this one.

deb said...

I think everyone can learn compassion, some easier than others.

Aliki2006 said...

I think there are those who are naturally inclined to be more compassionate than others; however, I do think we can model compassion, and then nurture it. I do know people who just aren't naturally compassionate, and I just don't think they really know how to be. They are not cold people, but copassion is just something they can't express too easily.

flutter said...

I think you can have a predilection towards being compassionate....but I truly think that compassion is built through your experiences. I don't know that I would be as much of an empath if I hadn't been through what I have been through.

carrie said...

I agree with Flutter, that everyone is probably born with a little compasion.

But - to varying degrees.

Just looking at my own children, I can see 2 distinct types of empathy. And this was something present in very early toddlerhood, in the same span of 2 years, with the same parents and living environment.

They are both compassionate, but one has an obvious strength for it while the other shows a mild understanding, no matter how many times I explain "how would you feel if someone did that to you?".

Anyway, that's my own "scientifif" data collecting! :) Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Tabba. You have such a great family.