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July 8, 2020


A well respected business person once scolded me for speaking about compassion, telling me it was weak, a waste of time.

His reaction was jarring to me, as one reason I maintained contact with him was his philosophy of leadership with heart, mind and bottom line, a term I used frequently when going into organizations seeking culture transformation yet lacking heart.

On one bruising occasion he scolded me publicly, in a foreign land, with other leaders watching. He enrolled others to agree with him that compassion was a waste of time, enabling, weak.

Quietly, gently, I asked him if he knew the entomology of compassion: he did not answer.

Compassion: com means “with;” passion means “suffering.”

Compassion is a warm, accepting embrace of another that acknowledges where they are, not where you think they should be, and not driven by prescriptive advice (that may be valuable, but only when the one suffering is able to receive it. Sometimes people can’t hear when bound by shock, suffering).

My comments dismissed with an assurance of someone who knows better, this gentleman’s wife whispered to me shortly after: “He is not compassionate.”

It is important to add this gentleman is a good man, but like all of us, blind spots exist that undermine relationships and results.

Yesterday I stood alongside many others waiting to receive cherished food bank bags, desperately needed.

We are all ages-including children in strollers pushed by young mothers-waiting patiently as hundreds are served.

One worker claims that this food bank-the Yonge Street Mission in downtown Toronto-serves as many people in one day that they used to serve in one week.

I asked many how they are faring and the common theme is “OK. You gotta do what you gotta do. “ I admire the enormous courage, strength and more.

One man’s response was different. He was in his 30s, and clearly hanging on. “I am not stealing. I am not selling drugs. I am honest so that’s worth something to feel good about.”

Meanwhile, Toronto’s political class insist the disadvantaged and homeless must not live in parks because of health and safety issues. What’s unsaid, but perhaps more accurate, is that those in houses and apartments nearby report feeling unsafe around these encampments.

In reality, the encampments are safe havens because the political (and other) classes have not successfully found a remedy to house the vulnerable. (Despite proud boasts). It is a near impossible situation. But past experience reveals that intention and commitment manifests miracles when other matters matter more to those who have more means.

Those on the streets are not a menace, but reflect a failing of a system involving business, governments, institutions and civil society.

Like all humanity there are those within this community who are dangerous.

But many, many more are like this man: committed to living an honest life, in his words, even though they may appear in ways that trigger unconscious fears.

To learn to cultivate compassion as a means to manage our fears is now required more than ever. To know that fear will fill a mind that sees things unknown, foreign, different is a giant step a the start of self knowledge. The mind loves to be right and often makes others wrong to accomplish that.

And if you listen to those on the front of the front lines, much more compassion, followed by conscious, constructive and contributive action is required for long into the future.

We are only at the beginning of the fallout of this horrific pandemic. We are not all in this together at all, but sourcing compassion, then acting consistent with the universal values “do no injury” and “do unto others as you would have other do unto you” will begin to demonstrate that we all are really in this together.

Peter Bromley

Applied wisdom: to flourish in life

Clearlight Evolution

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