Road to Compassion

A woman tricked him into what seemed like an affair and in a span of four years, along with her girlfriend, managed to render him and his family homeless, got him indefinitely suspended from his job and had him accruing over $300,000 in legal bills with no end to litigation in sight.


And to think this professor teaches a class called “Judgment and Decision-Making.”

I read through his crazy ordeal chronicled in New York Magazine and it saddened me to think how deeply lonely people can be that even “the best of us,” so to speak, can become susceptible to anything resembling connection and love.


It also got me thinking about how we are able to feel such love and connection for human beings who are far removed from us. The suffering of people from across the globe can tug at our heartstrings so strongly, and it can actually feel much easier to commiserate with and understand the suffering of strangers rather than those of people we actually know.


What do I mean? A close relative can be so exasperating to the point of exhaustion and avoidance. A lover or a friend can do things that are mind-blowingly hurtful and unpardonable for us. People we work or deal with can exhibit such crazy, nasty behavior as to make us want to eradicate them from the face of the earth. And in times like these, it can just be that much harder to feel love and compassion for these people who are close to home.


But then it’s also understandable to feel that way because their actions have affected or continue to affect us directly. However, it still got me thinking, how do we translate our surges of love for humanity into compassion for actual people around us?


My go-to method is to eventually dwell on the fact that others’ behavior is ultimately about them, not me. Not to excuse what they did if it is objectively wrong or uncalled for, but we can understand that no matter how bad it has made or makes us feel, their actions actually have nothing to do with us.


If we can get to the point of putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes enough to understand what is likely causing or have caused his or her actions, then we get the chance to see what the person’s situation and challenge is. And when we do, it becomes possible for us to feel compassion for him or her.


The overly-sensitive relative who took offense at something you innocently said has shown up her insecurity and immaturity. The partner who ghosted you is emotionally unavailable and is so fearful of losing his perceived freedoms that he sabotaged your relationship in the process. Your friend who could not acknowledge and apologize for her mistake is plagued by pride and fear of confrontation. The person who bullied and badmouthed you is deep down insecure and craves attention. You get the drift.


Loving and forgiving people who have hurt us may not be easy, but it’s possible. We may still decide to distance ourselves from these people, and for good reason, but we can choose to do so without rancor and with peace in our heart.


As for the gullible professor, well, he actually consistently exhibited understanding for the women who caused his misfortunes by saying time and again that their actions were borne of mental and emotional imbalances. But then it’s obviously a case of taking compassion too far.


He forgot that the primary object of his compassion should have been himself.


Em Guevara is a professional life coach and founder of Work Smart, Love Smart Coaching. She gives individual coaching sessions, and facilitates Work Smart and Love Smart workshops for groups and companies. Find out more about her services at For a Free Strategy Consultation, contact her through Facebook page Life Coach Em Guevara or Instagram @worksmartlovesmart.