Has Society Lost Compassion?

photo by CNN.com

photo by CNN.com

“Convicted murderer and former NFL star Aaron Hernandez was found hanged in his Massachusetts prison cell Wednesday morning, officials said, just days after his acquittal in a double murder case.” This was the opening line from CNN this morning on my news feed.   After turning on the tv to hear more, I was saddened when a local New England reporter completed his report with “Hernandez will get no sympathy here.”  Wow.

There is no denial Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murder, no denial that he was involved and caused the death of Odin Lloyd and no denial that I was more comfortable that he was behind bars for life. My heart went out to the family of Odin Lloyd. His mother Ursula Ward words of forgiveness surprised many, “I forgive the hands of the people that had a hand in my son’s murder, either before or after. And I pray and hope that someday, everyone up there will forgive them also.” This mother, certainly understands compassion.

My indignation by the lack of compassion for the man who committed suicide in his cell last night does not replace an outrage over the deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. All lives matter. Love and compassion are not an irreplaceable commodity, but a living breathing yeast that grows when cultivated.

The sports world is only a mirror to the rest of society. We place those who can win for us at a exalted level, elevated and adored for what they can do for us, we want them as our heros. Winning is paramount, more important than anything else, and once again compassion is sidelined. Isaiah Thomas, the Boston Celtics player whose sister, Chyna, died in a automobile crash on Saturday continued to play in the game on Sunday and on Tuesday. Where is the compassion for him, his family, and his mother who could be helped by his presence.? Did Brad Stevens, coach of the Celtics team push compassion aside? Did team manager Danny Ainge have empathy but lack compassion? Did the owners seek profit and win over integrity?  If they had encouraged Thomas to return home, would that investment in compassion bring a more devoted player back, loyal and committed to the Celtics? They will never know now.

Charles Barkley, the former Basketball professional and now sports commentator, was criticized for his comment on how the “tears of Isaiah Thomas made him uncomfortable.” Was that statement fair? When you witness the pain of another it should elicit a response, it can be “uncomfortable” when there is a deep awareness and sympathy for another’s suffering. Barkley has been so elevated in the eyes of the public, as a successful player and now well regarded sports commentator, that the public focused more on their perception of arrogance instead of the implication of empathy and compassion he seemed to be showing for Thomas.  

I was raised with a goal of being a righteous person, good, caring, decent, honest, and virtuous.  I often fall short of these lofty goals and find the compassion and mercy I receive for my shortcomings offers me an opportunity to learn.  When the word self precedes the word righteous, the meaning changes to one who behaves morally superior, convinced of one’s own righteousness. Disorder and chaos follow societies whose compassion erodes.