Matthew Cohen, MSW

Matthew Cohen, MSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
Twitter Facebook Facebook Google linkedin web

The Power Of Compassion

I am taking a class called Social Work and Spirituality. One of our assignments is to keep a weekly journal based on readings and class discussion. I figured I might as well share that journal here. The assignment is in keeping with what I generally write about here, and so until I am told to stop, which I can’t imagine happening, I shall continue.


Compassion As a Weapon – Social Work and Spirituality Week One Journal




There are endless types of weapons in this world, and yet I hear very little of the most powerful weapon humanity has, compassion. Last night one of my professors reminded me of this. During a discussion on Martial arts she vividly explained the need for calmness and clarity to actualize her teachings properly. She recounted an experience with her Samurai Sword training in which she used a particular visualization technique that might give insight into the title of this this entry.


The training technique involved cutting a piece of bamboo in half. The bamboo is used in place of an actual human being. That might be shocking to some, but the martial arts are concerned with the deeper implications of the forms they learn. In other words, every lesson on confrontation is also a lesson in interdependence. I do not think my teacher has any intentions of doing this to a human being, but I will make sure to remain on my best behavior. I digress, her technique involved picturing a beautiful Geisha who would suffer terrible pain if she was not able to perform the technique properly. Her visualization technique seemed to allowed her to ignore her own performance worries and focus on the needs of the object, which in her mind, was a person in front of her. In her telling, most of the other members of the class were focused on performing the technique properly, while she focused, not on her own abilities, but on the consequences of her actions. In other words, she brought compassion into the situation.


It’s a apt commentary on how we usually go about our daily routine. There is so much focus, in each of us, on ourselves that we so often forget that the consequences of our actions always involve others. Her story illustrates how powerful compassion can be. She was able to do something that she might not have been able to do had she not searched deep into the effects of her actions. Another person, overly focused on themselves, might have missed the totality of the situation confronting them.


In real life, when people are not made of bamboo, all of our actions on other have effects. Maybe we are not trying to cut each other down with swords, but we are certainly cut people in a metaphoric way. There is so much anger in the world, people are always trying to distance themselves from each other. There are always people being cut with blame, jealousy,and anger. In doing so it is easy to forget that one’s fate is always tied to the fate of those around us. A person can convince themselves of anything, even that their actions have no effects on others, but this is akin to a child closing her eyes and believing that she has disappeared. Compassion cuts thorough that fantasy. Even when we were are angry, compassion reminds us that we are tied to the people around us. Even we when are jealous, we can be reminded that there is not always enough resources to go around.


I feel honored to be part of a profession that takes the ideals of interdependence and compassion seriously.  I don’t think there will ever be a world where there is no anger or jealousy, but perhaps there can be a world where anger and jealousy are tempered with a compassionate mind. Perhaps all it will take is focused an effort to teach children about interdependence the same week they are taught about survival of the fittest. The latter relies on the former because implicit in concept of competition is a connection between beings. How could disconnected beings be in competition in the first place? That connection comes before the idea of competition. That’s what I conceptualize compassion as, the necessary connection between all beings. Humans can kick and scream through all their horrific wars, but there is no weapon powerful enough to change the nature of the world. Long after we blow ourselves off the planet, interdependence and compassion will bring our ashes back together. That’s the mind my professor brought to bear on her target. It’s a lesson that we should remember well in all our dealings.









Our authors want to hear from you! Click to leave a comment

Related Posts

Subscribe to the SJS Weekly Newsletter

One Response

  1. ckahniea1 Connie Cox January 7, 2014

Leave a Reply