Compassion and Pragmatism

Compassion is the inspiration for making changes.
Pragmatism and practicality allow us to make the changes happen.

One of the greatest of all human and spiritual attributes is compassion. The ability to relate to the suffering of others and to wish to help them end that suffering. But in this world, when we witness suffering, injustice, cruelty and insensitivity, compassion alone can lead to frustration, pain and other emotions. Compassion alone is not enough to bring about change.

Pragmatism allows us to step back from the emotions associated with compassion and to see the world as it currently is and to discover how to realistically implement that compassion or to make the changes necessary to turn that compassionate viewpoint into a reality.

Pragmatism can also, on the other hand, lend itself to limiting beliefs and to derailing change before it has an opportunity to take hold. Pragmatism, in its extreme form, is often used to say, “No”, before a full understanding of a situation is presented. Pragmatism is all too often expressed as limited and negative thinking. Many self-identified pragmatic individuals believe that their view and experience of reality is the only one that is real and correct. Of course, this viewpoint is not at all realistic but one that has woven itself into the fabric of many a human being’s mindset.

The ‘But’ Word

We have often heard the admonition about the term ‘but. All that matters is what comes after the word but. Everything in the sentence before the term but is meaningless. For instance, “Yes, everything is possible but somethings are not realistic”. You would think that after thousands of years of humanity’s learning about what is possible and what is not possible that these absolutes about impossibility would have disappeared but they do not. For instance, I find humor in the pronouncements of scientists who state that faster than light travel is impossible. I suppose these are the reincarnations of scientists who stated unequivocally that the earth was flat and was the center of the universe and that human beings would never fly.

Science has yet to discover how faster than light travel can be accomplished or to develop the technologies that make it possible. This lack of discovery does not equate to impossibility. It only points to the need for creative and open-minded research and experimentation.

Compassion, Pragmatism and Possibilities

It is not impossible for humanity to live on this planet in harmony with the rest of the creatures who consider this their home. It is not impossible to change the mindset of those who believe that the earth exists to serve humanity. It is not impossible to eradicate greed and cynicism from humanity. In fact, human survival demands these changes. Compassion fills us with the innate knowledge that it is essential to live in harmony with all life. Pragmatism is the tool we use to discover and implement the creative solutions to transform the impossible into the possible.

Pragmatism should not be the brake that stops change but the objective and creative means of facilitating change when change is required. Pragmatism should not be an excuse for limiting beliefs but a challenge to discover previously undiscovered solutions to issues raised by compassion.

To bridge compassion and pragmatism requires specific disciplines that everyone is capable of learning and developing. Those disciplines include;

  • Mindfulness
  • Objectivity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Meditation
  • Creativity
  • Openness
  • Listening skills
  • Mental and emotional stillness
  • Self-awareness
  • Curiosity
  • Emotional Intelligence

Compassion and pragmatism should be used hand in hand to facilitate the strengthening and evolution of an organization and humanity as a whole. They enhance each other increasing the efficacy of each. Both are required. Humanity’s future depends upon it.


© 2018 Jon Shore

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