“If we could see the whole truth of any situation, our only response would be one of compassion.”

In an essay titled “Empathy with the Enemy”, the philosopher and writer, Roman Krznaric writes of visiting Guatemala some years after the civil war during which “the military had killed an estimated 200,000 indigenous people, mostly Mayans, in their attempts to uproot leftist guerrillas.” The Guatemala that Roman now saw was a country ruled by “thirty or so” oligarchs “families of European origin who dominated the economy and politics, and who kept Guatemala impoverished.”

As Roman endeavoured to understand the oligarchs’ “mental outlook” through conversations with some of them, he found their ideas and “opinions detestable. These were the kinds of attitudes that had made possible the tortures, rapes, and murders of so many thousands of indigenous people during the civil war, a tiny fraction of which I had heard about first-hand during my earlier stay in the jungle village.”

But he also discovered that “You can gain an understanding of somebody’s worldview without having to agree with their beliefs or principles” — indeed, it is vital to do so.

As Roman’s conversations progressed, he found that during the civil war, families of the oligarchs had also suffered with members being “assassinated and their children kidnapped by the guerrillas and other armed groups.” Roman writes: “I suddenly found myself empathising with the enemy – seeing the war from their perspective –and felt genuine compassion for them.”

Roman makes the deep point that while it is important to emphatise with the “dispossessed or disadvantaged”, it is equally necessary to “extend our empathetic imaginations….also to those whose views and actions we might oppose or disdain, from wealthy bankers to bombastic politicians to racist work colleagues – even the sibling who broke a favourite toy.”

In “The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness”, Mingyur Rinpoche teaches: “If we could see the whole truth of any situation, our only response would be one of compassion.”

Peace 😊

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