Compassion and wisdom

Fred Cavaiani

Wise people have compassion for others. The definition of compassion is "sympathetic concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others." Other words for compassion are empathy, care, concern, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, and mercy. The definition of wisdom is "the quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgment" Other words for wisdom are caution, care, providence, foresight, and shrewdness.

A wise person knows that the quickest way to influence another person is to have empathy, warmth and love toward that person. It creates a positive rapport that begins to pave the way for understanding and a connection with that person.

Among the smartest people in history were those who lived their lives based on the principle of compassion: Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Dorothy Day, and Oscar Romero just to name a few. The people who have treated you with compassion and empathy are not easily forgotten. These are the people whose memory brings up warm and grateful feelings. It is a delight to listen to compassionate people. I still remember my Italian grandmother, who consistently brought a compassionate and loving presence into my life. She consistently radiated warmth and kindness and a great sense of humor. I always felt loved and respected in her presence.

This past Thursday I conducted a workshop called "The Wisdom Years: Getting Older and Getting God." It was a program for those 60 and older. There were 43 of us. We sat in a circle and shared many deep, emotional and spiritual feelings about life. The connection between the people in the room was profound, peaceful and refreshing. We meditated together and shared much with each other. Everyone left the day uplifted and renewed. The primary reason for the uplifting day was the willingness to share personally and compassionately with each other. Treating one another with empathy, warmth, tolerance and kindness created a unity that was amazing. It was another profound reminder that we all need to be treated with compassion and love.

When I put energy into condemning and judging others I am wasting valuable energy and making myself miserable. When I follow a religion, political party or a movement without compassion and love, I am most likely closing myself off from personal growth and missing the core principles of what I had been professing to follow.

Wisdom comes from compassion and love. Compassion and love result from careful attentiveness and a humble receptivity to other people's thoughts and feelings. I listen to understand. I reach out to connect. I desire to give love to you regardless of what you give to me.

People who spend energy in bemoaning the state of the world but seldom reach out in any compassionate way to their friends and their enemies do not help the world become a better planet. The more I make you my enemy, the more I create misery for myself and for you.

Become wise by becoming compassionate. What are the values in your life that remain? Is it how much money you make or is it how connected you are to other people and how well you care about each other? Is it how different you are from me in color, status, finances, and country or is it how similar we are in wanting to love and be loved? Do I see you as an enemy before I even know you or do I look at you as a friend until you prove to me you are an enemy?

The people that remain in my life in positive memories have always been the people who are caring and compassionate. When I think of these people I get a feeling of gratitude. These are the Wisdom People in my life. Just being around them brings a sense of gratitude and peace.

The greatest disappointment is to experience old friends who once seemed compassionate now become condemning and judgmental. Another disappointment is to watch politicians become immune from compassion and see anyone who disagrees with them as Un-American, irreligious, dumb or stupid. The truth is that we all become this way at times. We all become condemning and judgmental and act as if the way we see things is the only correct way. When we do this we depart from compassionate wisdom. It becomes important to return to compassion and love so we can discover wisdom again. Treating others with compassionate listening, understanding and actions is the way we change the world from violence to peace, from resentments to connections and from judgments to emotional rapport.

Wisdom people listen to understand. They relate with other people in order to have a positive connection and have an awareness when compassion is absent in their interchange with others.

All of these are simple basic principles of psychology and spirituality. It can be difficult to remain simple, honest, compassionate and caring. Stay simple, compassionate and loving and wisdom will take over. Become complicated, vague, judgmental and condemning and discover isolation and misery. Compassionate Wisdom seems much more attractive. It we make the effort, wisdom and compassion will work.

Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is

Published: Tue, Sep 22, 2015