Consider this quote by Henry A. Wallace, a statesman, scientist and leader from an earlier generation. It suggests his approach to incivility.
Today, we still see faces distorted by anger. The hunger Wallace describes can be seen as a metaphor for not being heard, understood, or a condition from trauma of a difficult situation encountered earlier in life. When we see an angry face, we just don’t know what caused the face to be angry.
Prior to what historians now call the civil rights movement, Wallace faced angry faces and hateful reactions during his travels in the South. He saw the pain in the faces of angry people as a symptom of their state. It probably does not mean he excused them for their actions, he just knew that at that particular moment their actions were a sign of their emotions rather than a expression of their character. He had the presence of mind to not aggravate their stress.
Researchers suggest that we are wired to see facial expressions and react with a flight or fight response. So compassion must be intentional and developed at time when we are not in stressful situations.
Getting to the state of compassion comes from a personal decision. A person needs to get there on his or her own. Like the whole concept of civility, compassion cannot be mandated.
There are models of compassion out there. Who comes to mind as a model of compassion. What have these models of compassion done to get there?
Seeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa. Here we plant seeds of inspiration for your daily life.