Why Compassion Matters

Normally, the purpose of this blog is to talk about ways in which we can be healthier, happier lawyers. So my original plan for this post, when I thought about

it weeks ago, was to write about a self-care topic – some little tidbit that would help better manage the daily stress of being a lawyer. But honestly, in this moment, that seems trite, a little patronizing, and frankly, a bit tone-deaf.

The fact is, hearts are heavy. The events of the past days, weeks, and months are overwhelming for many. We watch the scenes unfolding around the country and feel a broad array of very strong emotions – including, for some, the feeling of utter powerlessness. On top of all of this, there may be fear that someone we know and love will get sick. Some of us may worry about avoiding or overcoming financial loss and may fear the future economic consequences of the current pandemic. It can be really hard to help our clients and our communities, much less do it well, under these circumstances. Yet we have to.

These words from the Minnesota Lawyers Concerned For Lawyers program capture well the dilemma we face: “The community needs us as healers now, but we must also care for ourselves. We feel sad, angry, traumatized, helpless, disappointed, sick and more. These emotions can help us commit to work for equity and understanding in our legal and larger community.” These feelings are normal right now. However, if not acknowledged, we can get stuck in feelings of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.

So perhaps this is about self-care after all. As I write, the word that keeps coming to mind is compassion, which literally means “to suffer together.” A lot has been written and much research has been done on the importance to our well-being of practicing compassion. We can practice compassion for ourselves and others by recognizing that this is a time of suffering, and that we are connected to each other through that suffering. We can, and should, practice compassion by focusing on the doing of compassion. We do that by practicing kindness and gratitude; by listening, educating ourselves, and reflecting; and by honoring and acting on our compassionate impulse to relieve the suffering of others. We can practice compassion by remembering that each and every one of us – whether we agree with each other or not, whether we understand each other or not — has the same basic needs and desires: to support, nurture, and provide safety for our families and ourselves, to be loved and cared for, to be heard, seen, and understood, to be free from fear, to be safe from violence and the threat of violence, to be alive.

We need to care for ourselves and each other right now. Compassion matters. If you need someone to talk to, please call the OAAP at 503.226.1057. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Note: I am grateful for the wise and generous contributions to this post by my colleagues at the OAAP.