An Odd Definition of Compassion
something that has stuck in my craw for a number of years – the odd
definitions of compassion and generosity that seems to exist in modern
society. It has to do primarily with our politicians. It’s generally
understood that if a politician votes to give money to someone in need,
that’s compassion. To my thinking, that’s an extremely odd definition of
compassion. Now, if that same politician reached down in his own pocket
and gave his own money to someone in need, that would indeed be genuine
compassion. He would be a truly generous person.
simply voting to take someone else’s money and give it to an individual
in need is not compassion, at least not by my understanding. Compassion
is giving your own money to help someone else.
power of government to help someone else may be a necessary thing, but
it has absolutely nothing to do with compassion. It’s like the story of a
citizen and a politician walking down the street. They come upon a
street person who asks for help. The citizen reaches down in his pocket
and gives $20 to the person and tells him that if he’ll stop by his
office to work he’ll pay him $10 per hour. The politician is impressed
by the generosity of the citizen, so when they come across another
street person he walks over and gives him directions to the welfare
office, then takes $20 from the citizen (holds out $5 for administrative
costs) and gives the balance to the street person.
to give other people’s money to folks in need may make a politician feel
good and he may think he is compassionate when he does so, but this is
not compassion. Being generous with someone else’s money is easy to do,
but in most cases it’s just self-serving. The politician’s goal is often
just to make that person feel indebted to him, and helping him is
incidental to the situation.
In fact, government aid to the poor is
usually a disconnect. What is disconnected is the love that motivates an
individual to help another person. For most politicians, giving other
people’s money to the poor is just another way of buying votes. And
truthfully, most politicians don’t care a whit if the money really gets
to the person in need. They just want it on the record that they are
"compassionate" and want to be sure that the person helped is committed
to vote for them.
If this seems cynical, just ask your
politician how much of their salary they donated to charity last year.
You’ll be shocked to learn that politicians of all stripes,
conservative, liberal, Republican and Democrat give very, very little of
their own money to charity. It’s hard to find out what the numbers are,
but when the sums are disclosed it’s almost always less than 2% of what
In contrast, the hard-hearted businessman (as
portrayed by Hollywood) is often among the most generous and
compassionate in our society. I work with many fine folks in the
business community who give much more than 15% of their income and
profits to charity each year. On top of that, they volunteer their time
to serve others in need. Without any fanfare or credit, tens of
thousands of small business leaders help less blessed members of our
society by donating their time and dollars.
"compassionate" politicians who portray yourself as "compassionate"
because you give away other people’s money, you deserve nothing but the
Bronx cheer. But for you truly compassionate businessmen and
businesswomen as well as all Americans who dig down deep to help make
this a better country in which to live, you deserve a round of applause.