Compassion is defined as a ‘Deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the wish to relieve it.’ It’s our innate desire to reach out and help someone in need.
What is Sopranos-style compassion then you ask? Well, it’s a rather discompassionate form of compassion that ranges anywhere from a curt, ‘Suck it up and get over it,’ to a harsher response Tony captured so eloquently in a scene from the Sopranos when he said, “Anthony’s got to know that the world doesn’t revolve around his sensitivity. I should have beaten it out of him when he was a kid!” Whack!
I see it every week when I’m teaching karate. A few months ago a father actually yelled at me and ordered me to put his 4 year old son down and make him walk after he had hurt himself and was crying. More recently, I heard a parent say to their child, “Stop crying. You have to be brave.”
Frankly, I think it takes a lot more courage to cry in public than it does to suppress it, but that’s another topic for discussion.
Sopranos-style compassion may come in the form of an icy stare, a cold shoulder or 30 tons of explosives. “Your beliefs are different than mine, you say?”
Sometimes Sopranos-style compassion is a little more subtle, ‘My, aren’t we the sensitive one.’ It’s dished out with a tinge of sarcasm for added effect.
Whatever form it comes in, it’s very devastating to a person’s sense of security and their sense of self. This is especially true of children who are preciously vulnerable to insensitivity.
How did we become a society that embraces this form of compassion? What is it that allows us to coldly walk past a homeless person begging for money and why is it that we can be so deeply touched by a picture of a soldier…or firefighter or police officer…carrying a wounded child, and yet find it so easy to scold our own children in times of emotional hurt? I suspect it has a lot to do with the lack of compassion we were shown as a child. Or maybe it’s because we’re finding it easier to be cold this day in age as a result of being numbed by the violence we are being bombarded with in movies and video games. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become so far removed from our true authentic loving selves.
The irony of Sopranos-style compassion was brilliantly captured by Pauly, perhaps the coldest and most vicious character on the Sopranos, when he sadly pleaded, “I’m not without my sensitivities.” Compassion is one of the core characteristics of human nature. We all want to be held, nurtured and soothed in difficult times. We want to be reassured that we are going to be all right. It’s okay to show a little softness. It makes us more human.
“There, there Fred. All is well!”
Have an awesome day!