Fierce compassion

Dear President Trump,

One of my heroes is a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hahn. Actually, he is probably a hero to millions of people and I am happy to be counted among them. I return to his teachings often and especially to his idea that compassion may be fierce. Normally we think of compassion as simple sympathy or concern for another who is suffering or getting her or himself into trouble somehow. But Thich Nhat Hahn frames compassion in a much more nuanced and useful way, reminding us that sometimes we have to bring forward uncomfortable or even painful realities if we are to be truly compassionate. In other words, sugar coating things and just going with a “there, there” approach is cowardly and what’s worse it does not help the individual or organization (etc.) correct what is wrong, correct what is causing the suffering. So for example, if I were to simply commiserate and sympathize with a Veteran patient of mine about how awful it is that she is in another abusive relationship without helping her see the patterns in her choice making and helping her face the hard decisions she needs to make to be safer, I would not be helping her break a dangerous cycle. True compassion requires us to be both tender and fierce, often at the same time.

I’m telling you all this so that it might be clearer to you why I am sending you messages that always include both a rebuke and a blessing, messages that are intended to be fiercely compassionate or compassionately fierce. I care about you and members of your administration as human beings and I am deeply concerned about the harm I see your actions having on the rest of us and our democracy.

In line with my ongoing effort to more genuinely embrace the wisdom of Jesus, Buddha, Thich Nhat Hahn, Mother Theresa, and my wonderful pastor that enjoins me to love my enemy, I send you this blessing:

May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May your life unfold and intersect in peace.

Tracy Simpson

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