If you were truly compassionate…

If you were truly compassionate, you would not think you can force others to be virtuous. Force never results in virtue. Force begets more force, which creates the opposite of virtue.

If you were truly compassionate, you would constantly remind yourself of the golden rule. You should treat people like you want to be treated. So, if you do not want people with guns to come and steal your property, you should not promote policies where people with guns take other peoples’ property (and then justify it because it is “the government”).

If you were truly compassionate, you would think carefully about how you deal with your neighbors. Are you a busy-body? Do you constantly interfere in their lives? Do you go to their homes to steal their cars because they have two cars and you only have one? Well, if you do not do this in your personal life, why is it suddenly OK if “the government” does it?

If you were truly compassionate, you would realize that making people dependent on government welfare hinders their progress and retards their growth. Difficult times make us stronger. We learn self-reliance by facing difficult times. People will not better themselves if they can, instead, simply get a government check. You would weep when you go to a poor inner city neighborhood and see entire generations ruined by “good intentions.”

If you were truly compassionate, you would help the poor through service and encourage others to voluntarily do the same. You would be a great example to those around you, but you would not spend your time worrying about other peoples’ choices and how you must compel them to be generous or make the same choices you have made.

If you were truly compassionate, you would realize that only purely defensive wars are just. Satan loves to reign with blood and horror on this Earth. Meddling in the affairs of other nations that may someday be a threat always backfires. War is only a reasonable solution in defense of a direct attack.

If you were truly compassionate, you would recognize that talking disparagingly about “the rich” and constantly about “social justice” and “fairness” only promotes envy and covetousness, which are sins. You should not encourage people to sin.

If you were truly compassionate, you would recognize that an ever-increasing government, with trillions spent on social welfare and the military, is not sustainable. Somebody must pay for all this spending. Either more money must be taken from the people, turning us into slaves, or money must be printed, which is inflation, and inflation harms the poor and working people disproportionately. If you were truly compassionate, you would realize the only solution is to live within our means and you would favor cutting government spending for the good of all.

If you were truly compassionate, you would recognize that the burden of government debt will fall on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren. You would see that in fact the wealthiest people, as a group, are the elderly, who have savings, pensions and Social Security and Medicare. You would see that there are fewer and fewer workers to maintain these relatively wealthy people. You would favor entitlement reform so less money goes to the wealthy older people — now. You would realize that without such reform you are condemning our children and grandchildren to the same misery as the people in poor inner city neighborhoods.

If you were truly compassionate, you would not respond to this post by saying “government must use force to take some things from some people.” Instead, you would say: “let’s work to get rid of as much control and compulsion as possible, let’s decrease dependency and promote self-reliance, let’s promote voluntary, not forced, charity.” It would be a different world…if you were truly compassionate.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

16 thoughts on “If you were truly compassionate…

  1. When I look at the preamble to the Constitution — which sets forth the purposes of the document — here’s what I see: “more perfect Union…Justice…domestic Tranquility…common defence…general Welfare…Blessings of Liberty….”

    “Compassion” is not mentioned in there; rather, the authors were attempting to establish a system where people would be free from unjust government intervention, laws would be justly and equally enforced, the people would be protected from violence, and the general welfare of the new country would be supported.

    With that kind of stable society, based on liberty and the rule of law, people would be free to pursue their own best interests, and, upon achieving prosperity, be generous with the less fortunate around them.

    It’s precisely this that has made America the envy of the world, and the place where so many people wish to come. “The American Dream” is only possible because class distinctions make no difference here — everyone is equal before the law and free to work hard and possibly become successful.

    We are a great nation in part because we are a compassionate people, but that compassion is driven by the fact that so many of us were once at the bottom rung of the ladder and know what it is like.

    Taking a large percentage of peoples’ earnings for redistribution to the poor (and the wealthy) undermines the spirit of compassion and generosity. People have less to give and feel that it’s the government’s responsibility to help the poor anyway, so why bother?

  2. Craig: Appealing to Ayn Rand (even sarcastically) is illegitimate, because Rand felt that any form of help for the poor was wrong, either by governments or individuals.

    Non-objectivists like me would reject that as cruel and evil.

    I believe in the smallest amount of government possible, but the greatest amount of personal generosity.

  3. I slightly disagree with Mike in that Ayn Rand believed that any help to the poor was wrong. I believe she thought as long as it was an individual choice then there is nothing wrong with it. To say otherwise would invalidate the rest of her philosophy. Each person is free to do as they choose with their talents, money, life, etc without interference from government or other outside coercion. If someone wants to give money to the poor, so be it as long as it is their choice.

  4. Folks, I would prefer not to turn this into a discussion of Ayn Rand. She was an atheist and celebrating money as the ultimate good. She is not a good example for latter-day Saints, and, while I agree with some of her points, overall her message is pretty dark. This post was not inspired by her in any way.

    Here are some of my sources of inspiration:

    Ron Paul, Ludwig von Mises and Frederick Hayek.

    If you want to compare this post to anything from these three, I would be honored. Ayn Rand, not so much.

  5. How do you reconcile the point of the 6th paragraph of the OP with D&C 98?

  6. It’s funny that you wrote this today. Just this week a member of my family, who is a commited athiest, chastised the rest of the family for “bearing false witness against Barack Obama, because he is compassionate and honorable”. He went on to say that he was sure that if Jesus were still here he’d vote for Obama. Haha…that was funny! (I don’t think Jesus would vote for Obama, or anyone…because he gets to be the king in the end!)

    But, you do make some good points Geoff. The way I understand the commandment to clothe the naked and feed the hungry is that it’s a personal commandment — to me as an indivdual. I have to do those things — not abdicate my responsiblity to a program or the government etc. I have to develop charity on my own, there is no course in school that will teach me to be charitable. I have to practice charity to develop it, so it becomes part of who I am.

    The LDS Church has provided ways for us to be charitable, the fast offerings and the Humanitarian Aid program, but I also have to do this on my own in my community and neighborhood. I think this is where a lot of people get caught up. If you’re not activly and personally charitable and compassionate on your own, what’s the point?

  7. Howard, D&C 98 (plus the defensive wars in the Book of Mormon) are the basis for my philosophy, so I don’t think any reconciliation is necessary.

    “16 Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace, and seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children.”

  8. My issue with this kind of thinking is the real possibility that economic power can become so out of whack without government intervention that the substantive rights of the have-nots are easily abused by the haves (as the whole history of human experience has demonstrated). In other words, the purpose of government welfare programs is not to replace compassion and virtue but to ensure there is a stable market in which the Galts of the world can sell their goods and services in the first place.

    The Von Mises Institute’s ideas that armed insurance companies will protect the rights of the weak sounds like a much worse idea to me than allowing our representative government to do that job.

  9. “The Von Mises Institute’s ideas that armed insurance companies will protect the rights of the weak sounds like a much worse idea to me than allowing our representative government to do that job.”

    Truly ironic, considering how armed the Feds are these days.

  10. If one were truly compassionate, one might realize that the phrase, “all men are created equal” is actually a falsehood. In the unequal division of gifts God has given to his children, some are given to lead, some are given to follow, some are entrepreneur types who thrive in the capitalist system, and others are dependent upon the fortune of those entrepreneurs to lead and hire them.

    If one were truly compassionate, one might realize that certain types of people will never thrive in a purely capitalist market, because of basic inequalities that cannot be corrected. If we were truly compassionate we would not simply let the less fortunate eak out a pathetic existance in the lines of soup kitchens run by condescending and compassionate successes. Rather, we would promote policies that help stabilize the capitalist economy to keep them employed in jobs realistically suited to their abilities.

  11. Nate: That is a very bad misreading of the Declaration of Independence. The founders were not claiming that all men were equal in talents or abilities or wealth, but were equal before the law because of the inalienable rights given to them by God. There is not one set of rights for royalty and the privileged class, and other for the common people: All men have equal rights to life, liberty, and property.

  12. Thanks for this, Geoff. I appreciate the spirit and thought that went into it.

  13. One thing I try to keep in mind when voting is that candidates come to the table with differing degrees of light and truth. As members of the Church, I think we’re fortunate to have a revealed understanding of more perfect or divine ways of alleviating societal ills and expressing compassion.

    Others may not be as fortunate, perhaps as a result of poor choices in their lives that limited their receptiveness to truth, or perhaps because they simply haven’t reached a level yet where they understand the principles involved.

    Sometimes I worry that we can demonize individuals who present policy solutions that imperfectly utilize compassion – but which may be completely in line with the light and knowledge possessed by that particular individual.

    I think it’s important to continually recognize that elected officials can be good – and compassionate – people even if they advocate imperfect policies or policies that aren’t aligned with the level of light and knowledge we may have attained.

    Elected officials can be very (or exceedingly or truly) compassionate even if they exercise that compassion based on an imperfect knowledge of this enviable characteristic of the divine nature. I believe individuals who do their best to live according to the light they have received are pleasing to God, whose grace is sufficient for those that humble themselves before Him.

    We don’t know for certain whether a person is humble or not, or sincere or not, or good or not – in part because we don’t know the degree of light and truth they are being weighed against. But it is precisely for this reason that I find it personally more fulfilling to err on the side of viewing others initially as good rather than bad. Certain choices they make might manifest immoral characters, and policies they espouse may suggest I vote for someone else, but I try to leave the perfection of their compassion as an issue between that individual and God.

    Personally, I’m not entirely sure what it means to be “truly compassionate;” I’m still learning and progressing in that regard. It may be, however, that a great deal of good could come from acknowledging the good others try to do, even if they go about accomplishing that good using principles derived from a limited understanding of relevant principles of light and truth.

    We don’t need to vote for those who exercise their compassion using policies we disagree with, but we may find our own compassion strengthened by acknowledging that even those with whom we vehemently disagree may be sincere in their desires to help others.

    I agree with the author of this post that it would be a different world if we each seek to exercise and strengthen the spiritual gift of compassion. And while I tend to disagree with the author’s general tone, it is hard not to share his frustration with the shortcomings of government. The world in general and America in particular are in need of statesmen raised up by the Lord to alleviate the suffering of mankind in a manner more in line with God’s laws, including the exercise of a more perfected understanding of compassion.

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