The dogma of compassion

Not many would deny that compassion is a virtue. Some would even say it is the opposite of dogma. On a fundamental level, that is true. Yet it is possible for compassion to become dogmatic when it is defined too narrowly, and begins to take on a form of brutal piety.

I had this bizarre exchange with a friend recently. Here’s how it went. The details have been altered slightly but the form is essentially the same.

Friend: Hi, how’re you?

Me: Not too good. I’ve just had some bad news… [I was about to explain that someone I was close to had died, so I was feeling particularly fragile.]

Friend: Hey, you know, my bunions are giving me trouble again. I could barely do my shopping at the supermarket. I was hobbling as I pushed the cart. Even the old ladies were giving me funny looks. [The said bunions had been the topic of many a dreary conversation for several months.]

Me: I’m sorry, but I can’t really talk about your feet today.

Friend (defensive and irate): Don’t you care about my health!? Where’s your compassion?

Me: Urrr…?


True story. The more I tried to explain, the more ridiculous the conversation went.

Friend: Don’t you care?

Me: I’m really sorry. It’s not that I don’t care. Something happened today …

Friend: Caring is caring! Either you care or you don’t!

Me: Are we really having this conversation? Can I talk to you about my day?

Friend: Look, let me ask you 2 questions.

Me: Okay.

Friend: 1. Are you physically injured?

Me: No.

Friend: 2. Have you lost your job?

Me: No.

Friend: 3. Has your house been flooded or burned down?

Me (frustrated): That’s a third question.

Friend: You’re incredible! And you call yourself a Buddhist?

Me (verging on the distraught): What was that about?

Friend: If you answered ‘no’ to any of those questions, then you’ll survive!

Did I somehow land in Bizarro World? Had I been abducted by aliens, or mind-altered? At the time, I felt blindsided and distressed, but in hindsight, I wonder if it wasn’t a case of severe me-ism or undiagnosed bipolar disorder (no disrespect to genuine sufferers). This is from a person who publicly describes themselves as ‘Very Compassionate’. Yes, spelled with the capital letters like a badge or a label, followed by ‘And I expect you to be the same’! Truly a farce worthy of Dickens. Though caught up in it as I was, it was probably more like suddenly being swept into a Chekhovian universe.

Needless to say, the relationship didn’t survive Pluto’s station direct.

4 Responses to The dogma of compassion

  1. Dunya says:

    Dump this person.

  2. muddytaurus says:

    I have had a very similar experience recently, and done the same…is it narcissism on their part? They even managed to insult me as they wandered off.. No tolerance.

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