It feels like eons ago now, but way back in 2005 I had the desire to create a new vision for our young century. The 1900s had been the bloodiest and arguably most violent century in the history of the world. There were more deaths from war and genocide than ever before in the world’s history. We were only half a decade into our new century and things weren’t looking much better. The United States was fighting wars on two fronts and many parts of the world were in conflict.
My plan was to help people take on a new vision for our young century – for them to envision a century defined by compassion instead of violence. This is how Century of Compassion was born. After several years working on Century of Compassion and sharing my vision, I realized that compassion alone wasn’t enough to change the ways in which people interacted with one another in any significant way that was going to lead us toward a brighter and more peaceful future.
I spent several months in the summer and early fall of 2017 reflecting upon what had been most effective in the ways we interacted with people through our Century of Compassion events. I came to realize that the crucial ingredient that helped to spark positive interactions with people was respect. It’s amazing. It doesn’t seem to matter who the person is or what their station in life might be, being treated with respect always seemed to elicit a positive reaction. Through respect, you can create immediate connections with people. I also learned this through my classes I have taught to school children. As early as ages 5 and 6, respect is a hot-button issue with people. Everyone desires to be respected and to be treated equitably.
Next, I considered what allows us to go deeper with people when we are developing relationships. This led me to empathy. People love it when you “get” them. Everyone wants to be understood. And to truly meet people where they are you must empathize with them. Empathy deepens relationships and leads to a clearer understanding of one another.
This led me back to compassion. After you establish respect and empathy with people, then you begin to have compassion for their suffering. Everyone suffers. This is a basic fact of life. I truly believe that it is impossible to have genuine respect and empathy for people and not have compassion for them as well.
Finally, I noted that interactions and relationships would inevitably fall apart if there was not also kindness built into the scenario. Ultimately, all of our relationships hinge upon the kindness and love that we share with one another. This sustains relationships. Without loving kindness, indifference develops and things eventually fall apart. Kindness begets kindness and thus our relating go on and on.
Tolerance and acceptance of one another also play a role in our relatings and relationships, but I tend to feel that these develop over time. They have to be built upon a foundation of genuine respect and empathy. Ultimately, everyone desires to be accepted for who they are. Everyone wants to be loved for their whole selves – for the good in them and in spite of that which they themselves see as bad. Everyone needs this kind of acceptance. And, starting from a place of respect and empathy heading towards compassion and kindness gives us a path to get there.
I realized that when I put the words in order by first letter I came out with the acronym “RECK.” When I looked up the word reck in the dictionary I was pleased to discover that it means “to have concern or regard.” It is the root word for words like “reckless” and “reckon.” How perfect that the word that stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness means to have concern or regard! For truly, if we have concern and regard for other people then we should treat them with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness.
I launched a bit of an experiment by starting a RECK Pact Page on Facebook. Here, I call people to pledge to treat all people with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness, regardless their differences. I also provide daily doses of inspiration to help people uphold their pledge. Please check out our RECK Pact Page and like it if you wish to agree to treat all people with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness.
I still believe a century defined by compassion is possible. And I believe RECK Pact is the path to get us there.
Founder & CEO, Century of Compassion