Peace Novena 2017 Day 1: Wisely Selfish Selflessness

Day 1 Reflection: Compassion

Compassion is a good place to begin nine days of prayer for peace, especially in what I consider a toxic environment of constant negativity and judgment. The “correctness police” who troll the Internet and social media have an opinion about EVERYTHING and often that opinion lacks any hint of compassion.

Below I share a short segment from the book Opening Hearts. It challenges us to acknowledge and respect the essential humanity in others. In order to do that, we must accept that even though others hold different ideas, political views, or cultural ways, each person embodies a spark of the Divine. Our common humanity is, in fact, Sacred.

Wisely Selfish Selflessness

Compassion is often referred to as “selflessness.” It is best exemplified by Jesus’ admonition to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Of course, this admonition presumes that you in fact do love yourself, respect yourself, take loving care of your body, and honor the precious gift of your life.

Perhaps one of the problems in our world today is that so many people do treat others in the same way that they treat themselves.

Some people consider the idea of consistently acting with compassion as naïve or even dangerous. Yet while it’s true that there must be responsible boundaries for all actions (you can understand a criminal’s pain and yet still lock him away so that he can’t harm anyone else), compassion demands that we respect, and even love, the essential humanity inherent in every human being.

What’s In It For Me?

You might ask, What’s in this for me? My answer is simple: when you decrease the level of suffering in the world, you open your heart—and the hearts of others—to a greater level of love and by extension to greater happiness as well. By being compassionate to others, you make the world better for yourself. In his book How to Be Compassionate, His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes,

If you are selfish, be wisely selfish. Ordinary selfishness focuses only on your own needs, but if you are wisely selfish, you will treat everyone just as well as you now treat those close to you. This strategy will produce more satisfaction for you, and more happiness. So, even from a selfish perspective, you get better results by respecting others, serving others, and reducing your own self-centeredness.”

Compassion Strengthens Health

Children have a natural capacity to be compassionate.

Living a life of compassion, respect, and love not only strengthens our own health and healing, it affects the world too.

I believe we are, by nature, compassionate beings. We may lose our way from time to time (often in reaction to fear or injury) but I truly believe that we are all essentially good at heart.

Everyone has the choice to be loving and to do good. We may find ourselves caught between the devil on one shoulder whispering into our ear and the angel on the other but it is always within our ability to choose which side to follow. I won’t suggest that by choosing compassion you will become immune to pain. Sadly things don’t work that way. But by choosing generosity, compassion, and love you will be able to embrace the pains that life puts in your path and transform them into hope and love.

As we pray and reflect today on this first day of our novena, let us choose to refrain from reaction and consciously choose compassion.

Novena Ritual and Prayers


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