A Thought

Without Compassion I am Nothing


Without compassion I am nothing.

For pity is not compassion,

It is no more than a patronising aloofness

That demeans the recipient.

But compassion encourages action.


Without compassion I am nothing, yet

Without anger I have one hand tied behind my back.

I must not lose my sense of indignation

At injustice, for without anger,

Nothing will be changed.


Without compassion I am nothing,

Yet without wisdom my anger will be directionless,

Blindly striking out to hurt both enemy and friend.

And doing more damage than any original wound.


Without compassion,

I am nothing.


24 thoughts on “A Thought

  1. This is a great poem, Mick. I don’t generally give to homeless people on the street, prefering to give to charities such as Crisis on the basis that money given to individuals may be used to buy alcohol or purchase some other form of oblivion (temporary or permanent). However on one freezing evening I did put my hand in my pocket and give to a homeless gentleman outside my local supermarket on the basis that he must be genuine, as know sane person would be begging for money on a freezing cold day. In retrospect this may not have been compassion as several people subsequently informed me that the gentleman in question was addicted to drugs. Compassion has to be directed appropriately and sometimes what seems like a compassionate action is not. I.E. it is, in general better to give to charities than to individuals. Being blind I have been on the other end of this question. I have had people say words to the effect of “I don’t know how you cope”. I cringe at such “pitty” which is, in effect self-pitty on the part of the speaker (I.E. a fear of going blind leading them to pitty themselves in the imagined situation. In some situations I need assistance (E.G. when crossing a dangerous road), but what I don’t need is pitty. Best – Kevin

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Kevin. Yes, generally I prefer to go through channels such as crisis, but this is partly my experience of travelling and living abroad in places such as India where quite a large amount of the begging in tourist areas is a scam. If I give to an NGO working with those in genuine need, it will generally get to where it is intended.

      I am ambivalent about giving to the homeless in UK, however, as I accept that in some cases it money may well go on alcohol or drugs, but I have to remind myself that if I was living on the streets there would be many times I would just want to temporarily numb myself with something to get through another day or another freezing night, and in many ways I both understand that and accept it. Saying I would not give to someone who might choose to spend it that way, I come dangerously close to judging them.

      All the best,


      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think there is an alternative to giving money direct to homeless people, Mick. I have seen people give sandwiches and other food, which will do good whereas seeking oblivion will not. It does, in the end come down to one’s sense of what is the right thing to do. I understand your wish not to judge people. But for me I don’t want to feel in some way responsible for perpetuating someone else’s bad choice. Yes people have the right to make bad choices (I am a libertarian with a small l), but I have the right not to implicate myself in those choices. Your poem reminds me of the line in Walter Ralegh’s “The Lie”, “Tell charity of coldness, tell justice of delay …”. There can certainly be coldness (pity as you say) in charity, but also warmth when it springs from spontaneous compassion. Kevin

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I don’t disagree with you, Kevin. We have to all make decisions, and sometimes that decision will be to offer, as you suggest, a sandwich or somesuch, and sometimes money. I wouldn’t offer money if I was certain it would go on drink or drugs, because that certainty would be based upon what I observed, in the same way that I wouldn’t offer a friend in a pub who was already very drunk another beer. I might offer to buy him a coffee instead.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I entirely agree with you, Mick. I believe that one of the most compassionate ways to assist those (who are capable of work), is to help them into employment. Most forms of employments (besides providing a wage), also furnish the person employed with a sense of self worth which one can not quantify in purely monetary terms. So compassion may take a direct monetary form in the form of a donation to charity or a sandwich but, wherever possible the compassionate thing to do is to enable people to help themselves. There are people (for example with severe learning disabilities) who can not work, but many individuals (including those with learning disabilites) can work and by encouraging/enabling them to do so we create a virtuous circle, where people contribute to society rather than being passive recipients of welfare or charity.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. It’s the ideal, Kevin. There are certainly many who will never be able to work, but also many who can contribute on a small scale and get self-worth through that.

              It’s an entirely different topic, and one to explore perhaps another time, but it has become much harder for many who fall into the second category to find meaningful work of any description. I wholeheartedly agree with the principle of a minimum wage, which has helped to give many who were being exploited previously a more realistic income, but the downside of it when it came in was that overnight it destroyed a number of projects that gave a meaningful way of earning what was a couple of pounds a day as ‘pocket money’ to many people with (especially) moderate learning difficulties.

              I worked with many of these people, and although they literally only got a few pounds a week for whatever it was they did, for example some very basic gardening, they were immensely proud of it. Many of the projects had to simply stop because they could not survive commercially, which they were pressured to do, leaving those people they were helping, and whose lives the minimum wage was in theory benefiting, with nothing.


              1. I am sorry to hear about those projects going out of business, Mick. I seem to remember that a minister (either in the Coalition government, or in a Conservative administration) being pilloried for making a similar point to that which you are, I think making. If memory serves, it was a member of the Lords. I remember reading a book by a Conservative, Ian Gilmore (maybe Giolmour) in which he argued in favour of a minimum wage on the basis of one-nation Conservatism, so its an idea not wholly confined to the left. Anyway I don’t want to go off topic and it is, as you say an interesting debate, but one for another post. Best – Kevin

                Liked by 1 person

          2. I really find your post both beautiful and important. It is so true
            that most of the time pity and compassion are totally divisive.
            At times the pity can be the kick for compassion to enter I guess.

            As to help homeless and freezing people I find that both regular support
            to charities you trust is a form that will reach most. However, if it
            seems appropriate I will help directly at times.

            We will never know the fate of all those who are down and out. A happy
            place it is not.


            Liked by 1 person

            1. Thanks, Miriam. It can be a minefield, but I think you can do worse than follow your instincts / conscience; sometimes it seems appropriate to give directly, sometimes indirectly. Hopefully, this is where wisdom comes in, since making those decisions is not always easy.

              Informed choice would be the best way of describing it.


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