Counselor's Corner: Compassion vs. Constitutional rights


The other day the vice president of the United States was asked why the federal government would not put up a rule for people to wear facemasks in public. He said that it was a constitutional right for people to make a choice. I was shocked at this answer. In this day of a pandemic the government of the people, for the people and by the people must be led by compassion for one another. We obey stop signs and traffic lights to protect one another. I don’t see many people say that they have a constitutional right to drive as fast as they would wish. We make rules to protect people not to control people.

The whole coronavirus has challenged each of us to face the importance of being compassionate toward one another. On Saturday, I attended a gathering of people who were supporting in a loving manner a lesbian couple who worked in a church setting and were let go because they were married. This group compassionately wore face masks and the gathering was outside with much social distancing. The need to gather to support in a loving manner did not supersede the importance of care and compassion for one another. I was quite impressed. And thank God for wearing face masks. My wife and daughter joined me in this gathering and we all had our face masks. My wife is one of the most vulnerable in the population because of her diabetes, cancer history and also being a senior citizen. My daughter is a school teacher and though she didn’t belong to this church, she wanted to join us to be supportive of an injustice. As we stood there with our masks, I was impressed by the compassion present for one another. This was a very caring group of people.

I am inspired by the compassion people have for one another. I am also disappointed at the insensitivity and denial of reality by so many people. The inconvenience of wearing a face mask is superficial in comparison with the danger of spreading the coronavirus. Because something doesn’t personally affect us, it can be easy to minimize the dangers of this pandemic.

I am inspired by businesses and restaurants whose employees wear face masks. I am impressed when I see people walking into a store or business wearing a face mask. But I often see people doing this without wearing a mask. It saddens me. I know if my wife got the coronavirus, she would die because of her health struggles. There are over 125,000 people who have died from this virus in our country. That is a big number. But unless it hits close to us with a family member or friend having the virus, it can be very easy to minimize this.

Compassion must be the mantra of our country right now. The sad part of this is that our president and vice president do not exemplify this sense of compassion. Actions speak louder than words. Their actions do not give us an example of how compassion should be expressed. Words mean nothing when there are not compassionate actions.

When I go out to a public place and see people not wearing a mask, I see a lack of compassion. When I see people wearing masks I am filled with gratitude and filled with even more compassion.

Our country has been given a chance to lead the whole world in showing love and compassion toward one another. The medical experts have told us what to do to be more compassionate and help end this virus. Probably businesses would not have to shut down if everyone was required to wear masks and keep a safe distance from one another.

The sad part of all of this is that right from the beginning we were not given a command directive to wear masks and keep a safe distance. We were given recommendations but we were not given an order to do this in order to save lives. Because of this lack of leadership and this artificial demanding that it is a constitutional right to do what I want in a pandemic; many people have died and it looks like many more people are going to die.

We have had many protests and marches lately. It has brought this country into a deeper awareness of the inner attitudes of prejudice and discrimination and the realization that there are inner attitudes within almost everyone that need to be faced with honesty and humility. But in these marches and protests, compassion toward others must always be present. If someone marches today and doesn’t wear a mask and keep a safe distance, then that march lacks care and compassion and the message will be flawed. It is hard to accept a positive message that lacks compassion for the person next to you.

When a leader of a country doesn’t show compassion by positive actions and directives, everyone suffers.

We are all in this pandemic together. The whole world is in this together. We need compassionate directives in each country of the world. If I walk around in public and breathe on you with no mask, there is no excuse for justifying this. I may have wished you no harm. But nevertheless, if I have the virus, I have just infected someone else or maybe I may have caught the virus from someone else not wearing a mask.

There are many young people who minimize wearing a mask because they feel the virus will not reach them or they will overcome it. That is understandable. But we wear masks so we don’t hurt other people by possibly giving them the virus.

All of this is inconvenient right now. States had to shut down because we needed guidance to protect one another and work together. Once we get it and are willing to help one another, we can get on with life.

The saddest thing to witness is the denial of reality and the minimizing of this virus. Some states have not been affected as seriously as others, but now we are witnessing what happens when people don’t take this seriously: more deaths and more people become affected with this deadly health enemy.

Everyone can be a hero in saving lives by taking the time to wear a mask in public and to socially distant and of course to wash hands often with soap and hot water.

This is the time to decide whether we will make a decision to be a compassionate hero or a narcissistic villain. I want to be a hero of love and compassion.

During a time of crisis last Saturday evening, I witnessed a whole group of heroes wearing masks. I keep remembering these words: God is Love. When I am loving and compassionate toward others, I reach a whole new depth of living and a profound wisdom begins to come to me. But when I am not loving and compassionate, I start living a very superficial and angry life. We have a choice today: become compassionate or become angry. Wear a mask, keep a social distance, wash your hands and compassion and peace will enter your life in a deeper manner. Don’t become angry person. Always be loving and compassionate.


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. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is


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