Altruism has come to mean in common usage the love of another at the expense of oneself. Instead of loving others as we love ourselves, the degenerated use of the term “altruism” implies that we love others instead of loving ourselves. If this be the operative meaning of altruism today, then compassion is surely not altruistic. For the entire insight upon which compassion is based is that the other is not other; and that I am not I.
In other words, in loving others I am loving myself and indeed involved in my own best and biggest and fullest self-interest. It is my pleasure to be involved in the relief of the pain of others, a pain which is also my pain and is also God’s pain. Altruism as it is commonly understood presumes dualisms, separateness, and ego differences that the compassionate person is aware are not fundamental energies at all.
Today an even more pressing need exists for recognizing how compassion is to everyone’s own best interest and that is the issue of the survival of our common global village. If compassion is the best and perhaps only route to common survival, if it is true, as William Eckhardt maintains that “the world is dying from lack of compassion”, then compassion is not altruism in the sense of loving others who are different from ourselves. It is loving ourselves while we love others. It is loving the possibilities of love and survival. It is one love that permeates all.
Excerpted from the article:
Altruism vs Compassion: From Separation to Oneness
by Matthew Fox.
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