Friday, December 17, 2004

"Pity is a state of kindness excited by the sight of suffering." H.W. Beecher

Beecher has a way of defining things like few others I know. I have always felt the emotions one feels when sympathizing with a sufferer a very difficult thing to describe. The situations can be so grim but in the midst of it is a longing to be where the suffering abide. When I read this quote
"a state of kindness" it seemed so clear to me. Suffering humanity draws out, compels us, to do something kind to that suffering person. Even the most hardened person is drawn into that 'state of kindness' when viewing suffering or sorrow. The 'state of kindness' not only brings consolation to the injured but it is a medicine to us. We are lifted even though we are in the most distressing circumstances. A bitter, sweet frame of mind.
I can enter that state when I see dramatic needs, but I suspect the goal is to recognize quiet suffering with more and more sensitivity.

4 comments:

mat said...

It's good to hear pity being given a decent say. The other day Thanita, Nic and I were walking around Mckean. A man road by us on his bicycle and greeted us in Thai and I greeted him back. His face was in pretty bad shape due to leprosy but I was able to look him in the eyes when I greeted him and ignore his scars. It's pretty tough to do actually, I mean leprosy is probably the hardest thing to overlook or not get hung up on. I remember when Thanita and I first came to McKean, we had no idea it was a leper colony and when we saw some patients through the rainy glass of our auto I can tell you we didn't respond nearly so well. We were scared. But we decided it was what we were supposed to do. And I'm glad we did. I think the fact that I was able to move past pity and just say hello to that guy was enough for me to realize I learned something worthwile.

fcb4 said...

I find suffering a hard face to look into.
I naturally repel from it.

I think the way I feel in nursing homes describes it best. I know I should be there, I know they need companionship but deep down I am extremely uncomfortable by it all and often exhale greatly when I leave the building.

I more often want to run and shun suffering than embrace it where I see it...

mat said...

It's interesting to hear Eric say that being that he can walk into a room full of pshyco teenagers and take the challenge. One would think the old people would be an easier tackle.

I think it probably comes down to a pretty clinical explanation. If we are able to see something in the persons or situation that we can help remedy our pity reaches out to help. I mean if you know what you have can help, then I think the urine or zits (figuratively) probably become less of an issue.

As I was saying about the lepers, you can be around a situation or person and even though you may not be able to directly help, you don't make it worse. Like if there is a car crash and you can't really help because you're not able to stomach blood, but you can at least not freak out and start screaming adding insult to injury. I used to want to help the lepers, but I was afraid to even look at them, and now I don't really want to help so much as just say hello. What I learned blah bla bl...

FCB said...

"blah, blah" nothing, I agree with you. We all have differing gifts, talents, callings and abilities. To some dealing with teens and their bursts of emotion, venom filled attacks, hardware fashion, valley attitudes would be far harder than listening to a wheel chair bound elder.

Your first response was a good example of Beecher's definition of Pity. When you saw the leporus man you were "excited" motivated, inspired, to a "state of kindness" to look into his eyes and not his scars and greet him as a man and not a leper.
Pity or compassion is not merely an observant sympathy but a kindness motivated by suffering. We then experience, not intentionally but as collateral emotion, a gratification as well as the person we were kind to.