I believe compassion is a virtue. I know compassion is not a weakness. I hope I am a compassionate man. I hope I do not mistake weakness for compassion.
I have read with interest Jefferson Smith’s new book review series, Immerse or Die. Unlike other reviews, this measures whether or not a book can keep him immersed for 40 minutes; the length of time it takes him to do an exercise regime.
As an author I can immediately see the benefit in knowing where the book lost his interest: if one person loses interest, it is likely other people will too, so that is a good point to review; especially if it falls early enough that it seems in the book sample.
And I am not alone in thinking this is a benefit.
However, the deliberately hyperbolic description of the method Smith adopts is more contentious.
I see it as the equivalent of the self-aware parody of wrestling smack-talk; a way to make a loss of immersion at X minutes about being good enough to get to X rather than not good enough to get to 40 minutes.
Others see it as a lack of compassion because it has the potential to damage the confidence of an author by apparent assumption of authority.
I agree that someone might be hurt, which is why I am leaving it to any authors I know to make their own choice rather than risking the appearance of pressure that suggesting it to them might bring.
But I don’t see compassion as avoiding anything that might hurt someone.
If you are in a room with a screaming child, not throwing them from the window might be an act of compassion.
If you are in a burning room with a screaming child, not throwing them from the window is definitely not an act of compassion.
While the example is (deliberately) extreme, the same thought applies to smaller situations: being pleasant and being compassionate are not the same thing. To be inoffensive because we are then not responsible for the outcome, is weakness not compassion.
As we are more likely to encounter the small situations than the extreme, more likely to coast through the trivial than the life-threatening, it is arguably even more important to cultivate the distinction in minor matters.
And from the other side, assuming everyone who is not pleasant is automatically callous reduces them to ciphers; also not an act of compassion.
Do you feel being harsh can be compassionate? Do you feel there is always an inoffensive way to deliver a message?