Acting from a Place of Conscientious Compassion

Like many, I subscribe to numerous blogs and other daily feeds. Most don’t connect with me; some do; a few connect at the deepest level. This one did. In it, a Buddhist perspective from the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi addresses climate change, social justice, and saving the world. His perspective is interesting and important on many levels. What animates me this morning is wondering to what extent social sector organizational leaders are actually having these kinds of conversations inside and outside their organizations.

Bodhi says we “can be most effective by networking with others who regard human dignity and the integrity of the natural world as more precious than monetary wealth. By joining together, a collective voice might emerge that could well set in motion the forces needed to articulate and embody a new paradigm rooted in the intrinsic dignity of the person and the interdependence of all life on Earth. Such collaboration could serve to promote the alternative values that offer sane alternatives to our free-market imperatives of corporatism, exploitation, extraction, consumerism, and toxic economic growth.”

Bodhi discusses two primary moral principles involved in this effort to work toward a new level of collective action. “One is love, which arises from empathy, the ability to feel the happiness and suffering of others as one’s own. When love is directed toward those afflicted with suffering, it manifests as compassion, the sharing of their suffering, coupled with a determination to remove their suffering,” he says. “The other principle that goes along with love is justice….In my understanding, justice arises when we recognize that all people possess intrinsic value, that all are endowed with inherent dignity, and therefore should be helped to realize this dignity.”

How much of this line of thinking is working its way explicitly or implicitly into personal decision making and organizational life that is mission-oriented? Do we have blinders on, permitting us to see only (or primarily) our own objectives and priorities? When we approach donors to invite them to share our concerns and aspirations are we working to connect at the most basic definition of justice? David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney remind us that “human systems grow in the direction of their deepest and most frequent inquiries.”[1] So….what is at the heart of YOUR deepest and most frequent inquiry?

[1] David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney, Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change, 2005.

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