Tainted Compassion

by Jon Henshaw

I consider myself a compassionate person. If I see someone truly hurting, I feel for them, and will help them if possible. Compassion towards others (empathy in action) is part of what makes us human.

Earlier today, I was getting gas for my car. While pumping gas, a truck quickly pulled up near me, and a well dressed man got out, and started walking straight towards me. He was holding a clip board and a shiny brochure in his hand, and it was obvious that I was his target.

This guy had urban salesman written all over him, and I was his next meal. Over time, I’ve become incredibly jaded towards all salespeople. There’s something about the disingenuous approach that most (if not all) salespeople use - such as their smile, their ingratiating comments, and their unique ability to find and talk about something that I will respond to.

Before this guy had a chance to open his mouth, I looked at him and said, “If you’re selling something, I’m not interested.” I had stopped him in his tracks. He looked befuddled, and he wasn’t expecting such a well rehearsed and terse reaction from his prey. Befuddlement turned to annoyance, and I soon started to intuit that something wasn’t completely right. That was when he said in frustration, “I’m not trying to sell you anything. I just need directions.”

Still wary, I looked at his brochure, and sure enough, he was looking for the Parade of Homes that was being held near this area. I wasn’t as much embarrassed as I was disturbed by my own conditioning. Years and years of attracting schemers and aggressive sales people had conditioned me to always be on alert for the tell-tell signs of people who would want to take advantage of me. This guy had all of those tell-tell signs, and I wasn’t about to give him an edge in word-wise.

We live in a world where people, either through advertising or person-to-person sales, have exploited our innate desire to feel compassionate towards one another. Now, like the story I just told, most people must be on guard to protect themselves. In fact, it’s possible that this is the reason why community is breaking down all across the United States. Genuine friendship and compassion doesn’t seem to exist anymore - or at least it’s in short supply. It seems that we have to be constantly wary of meeting new people, and aware that they may only be befriending us, because they want to sell us a work-from-home product, like health tablets or Tupperware.

I have a few good friends. Good friends are rare and far between. Good friends don’t ask anything from us, except to just be together. Helping each other move, or being there when one of us is down, is a privilege. Good friends are some of the few things where compassion can be untainted, and free to express itself without fear of having a part of us taken away, or taken advantage of.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 7th, 2005 at 4:33 pm and is filed under Daily Living. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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