Broken People

compassionWho do you think of when you read the words ‘broken people’?  Do your thoughts ever include yourself?  Do you feel empathy, sympathy, compassion, disgust, aversion?  I would like to discuss the unique variants of brokenness, and how we as people and society as a whole react.

Did you think of addicts, homeless people, maybe those with some definitions of mental instability as broken people?  I did.  And my emotional reactions were all across the spectrum, some I’m not at all proud of feeling!  I even went to the dictionary and looked up definitions for words like addict, empathy, sympathy, compassion…  I realized I don’t live in a dictionary and every definition fit someplace within my perceptions, but not others.  So I would like to know what you think, I would like to turn this issue over in my mind, take it out to examine it and see if I can grow in understanding.

Addict.  It’s one of the thoughts that came into my mind when I wondered about ‘broken people.’  Is this person addicted to alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or maybe coffee?  Should it make a difference?  If I am approached on the street by a homeless woman asking if I can help, how do I react?  Do I automatically start putting restrictions on what help I might offer, or my ability to be compassionate?  Do I wonder if this homeless person is an addict, if giving money will help her continue her addiction?  And haven’t I already decided what the word ‘addict’ means to me!?  Yes, and it had nothing to do with coffee.  I feel differently depending on what choices another person has made, I react differently.  I want to learn how to not do that!

Maybe I need to examine how I define the word compassion.  After much thought I’ve decided compassion is accepting each person for who they are.  This is totally different than empathy which is responding to a person’s emotions and opinions with similar emotions and opinions.  It’s also totally different than sympathy which means feeling sorry or regretful for another’s suffering.

If I am acting out of compassion I won’t sit in judgment of this homeless woman, but will accept her for who she is. Whether she spends money I might give her on McDonald’s, drugs, or the medical bills that may be the reason she is homeless, doesn’t really matter.  Is it not her right as a human being to make her own choices?  For sure I won’t be accountable for her choices, but she will be.  I don’t get to decide what is a poor choice or what would be a better choice for her — not if I accept her for who she is, accept the fact that she has the right to her own choices, and agree to honor that right for everyone.

I think the person I want to be would be compassionate to all who suffer, and try to cultivate a loving attitude to everyone else—even those who don’t.  I am not the person I want to be!

How do I cultivate compassion for privileged people who remain oblivious to the consequences their self-centeredness visits upon others?  How on earth do I offer compassion to someone who regards him/herself as superior and who feels no discomfort on account of being oblivious?  I’m personally going to have the hardest time with those unable to recognize happenstance may be the only difference between them and anyone else, particularly someone less fortunate.

Aren’t we all “broken” to some degree or other (certainly, myself!) And I need to try harder to interact with others with compassion for their unique variant of brokenness.  I have found that many people’s “addiction” is to a state of denial that they are broken at all.  This addiction is no less vicious than alcoholism or drug addiction, and, like those addictions, is rarely willingly abandoned.

If you stopped everyone you met in the course of a single day and asked them to tell you about their most pressing worry, you’d find yourself astounded not just by the sheer intensity of the suffering people live with silently every day but by their ability to live in spite of it.  In this sense, we’re all like alcoholics / drug abusers (not to minimize the incredible and unique difficulty of overcoming a literal addiction to substances) —all struggling with problems we don’t routinely broadcast to the world.  My problems may not be yours, but no one’s problems make them something more or less than anyone else.

I believe that until you have compassion for yourself the credibility of your compassion for others must remain in doubt.  I personally have made the excruciating decision to cut someone out of my life because I was ill-equipped to help them, and I had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye so I could concentrate on my own issues, it was a compassionate act — towards myself. There are some people who damage the lives of those they are entwined with.  How do we decide who that is?

Most people we encounter in the course of our day seem on the surface to be living relatively calm, functional—even happy—lives.  And some certainly are.  But some are not.  Not that people intentionally work to create such a facade.  Rather, most people simply work to carry out their responsibilities as best they can.  I struggle when I get mad at someone and feel the urge to slander them or look down on them, the way people still do alcoholics and drug addicts, or for that matter anyone who struggles with problems they’re not struggling with themselves.  At those times I try to remind myself that everyone has a point of view, that everyone has dreams they carry in their heart and situations they fear yet struggle against.

I believe our society privileges certain types of brokenness — extreme competitiveness, greed, to name a couple — and casts stones at others, without regard for underlying spiritual health.  We rarely look beyond what appears to be success to see the hidden struggles, and if we do, we accept those people who appear successful more easily and are less likely to think of that person’s variant of brokenness.

If we are to truly be compassionate can we treat any person differently than another?

If we were to really learn the lessons of being compassionate, who’s to say we can’t help humanity in conducting a revolution of character that might change the destiny of another, a community, a nation, humankind?   At the very least we will have created a gentle space for spirit to flow and grow.



Filed under Life Lessons, Psychological Disorders, Psychology Ramblings..., Thinking/Considering

16 responses to “Broken People

  1. Wow. A lot to this. Give me some time to respond….

  2. tosmarttobegop

    We are all broken, everyone of us have something that is not quite right or sound. A understanding that no one is sound and not quite right is to have a sense of understanding. There is not such thing as a black or white human being. We are all shades of gray for the most part, not always perfect.
    A wise man once told me, “ I forgive the sins of other so they might forgive the sins in me.”.

    Once in a while I encounter someone that is beating themselves up for some flaw they have had. A moment when they have done something or felt something that otherwise is not what they think of themselves. They are mere moral and have suffered a human flaw that is all. The reality is that it is nothing more lasting then if they had an accident like wetting their pants on that level I mean. It happened, its embarrassing and you only need to correct the situation if possible then go on with life.

    LOL and yeah it seems a daily thing for me, there is always something during the day that causes me to stop and think tosmarttobegop are a fool! I am a broken person….

  3. Hi, I’m doing a school portfolio about Paparazzi. In my mission statement I talk about, “Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.” This connects with your topic on broken people. There are a lot of people in our world that are broken and don’t have a lot. Others look down upon them and don’t provide sympathy. You talk about compassion and accepting who people really are. No one has compassion for celebrities and what they do for us. Their job is to give us media either if its music, movies, or any other type of entertainment. When they get chopped up by the paparazzi and their surrounding fans, they don’t have anyone to lean on. For example, if there was a rumor going around about you, most likely people look at you differently. In this blog, you have shown people that wondering about other people’s feelings is important. If we all think about ourselves all the time, we have no space to listen to each other’s stories. I think if we all took a minute to think how we act towards each other, we would want to change. It would be great if the making fun or looking down on anyone could stop. There are just some people out there that don’t have compassion for others. Majority of the paparazzi don’t care how the tabloids put the story with the picture. They can change a situation or a picture as fast as they want. This is their job; they make thousands of dollars for a good shot which is sold to put a story with it. Overall, I want to show others that paparazzi can have a huge effect on celebrities. Why don’t we all walk a mile in someone else’s shoes for once?

    • Good thoughts, PaparazziBlogger!

      We don’t have the opportunity to walk in every pair of shoes, but we should pause to think that we don’t really know what the challenges are until we’ve actually been in that situation. We humans seem to be quick to judgment, don’t we? But isn’t recognizing the first step? Then we can practice getting to be better at this humanity stuff for the rest of our time.

      I seem to be a really slow learner. I still learn best from my mistakes!

      ” Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” Eleanor Roosevelt

  4. frigginloon

    Morning Fnord and the Prairie P&P’s , I have Loon Flu ( a slightly better strain than the swine) so I will try not to breathe on anyone! Nice post Fnord. Broken people….everyone is broken Fnord! You probably don’t know this but if there is someone crazy, weird, left of centre, suicidal, tragic or just simply lost they will seek me out. Anywhere, anytime, any place. I can be on a top of a friggin mountain and boom there one is! It has become a amusing topic of discussion amongst my friends.
    I only meet these people for short moments in my life but I know it is for a reason. How many people have I helped by lending an ear, or a dime or my time? I don’t know, does it matter. I love how life drags you through the unexpected, brief unexplained conversations and interaction with strangers (whether it be good or bad). Nothing is by accident. We all have broken bits here and there but it can all be repaired with a bit of glue. And sometimes you might just need a stronger glue and sometimes you might need some helping hands to hold it together while it dries 🙂 .
    Oh and Fnord, letting go of friendships is hard and sometimes necessary, I just try to remember to leave the door ajar when I let them out.

    • I absolutely know you make a difference, Loon! Do you suppose all the rest of us meet just as many “crazy, weird, left of centre, suicidal, tragic or just simply lost” people but we aren’t perceptive enough to recognize them?

      You not only recognize them, but you make them feel like full-fledged human beings, and that gives them hope. Who knows how many you’ve given that needed spark that could be the beginning of happiness?

      Maybe you are given more opportunities than others — because you’re willing to make a connection and acknowledge these people who need someone, when others blindly walk by.

    • I hope you get better quickly! Swine, loon, a flu by any other name is still a flu.

      • frigginloon

        Why thanks for that Fnord, I think we are all making a difference. God bless our little blogs and the readers who get joy from them! Oh and even to the ones “that shall not be named” who remind us that some people are more broken than others 🙂

  5. tosmarttobegop

    A story on this: I have a cousin who was the poster child for perfection, Tall, handsome, athletic and at the time carrying a 4.0 GPA in a University( LOl this is actually a norm in the family which makes me wonder if I am adopted?) He even had the problem of girls falling over themselves trying to get his attention.

    That that fateful day came, his mother came home and expecting to see him waiting in the Kitchen drinking a coke. But he was no where to be seen? She finally noticed the door to the attached garage open.
    She peeked into the garage and saw the nightmare of a parent! There laying on the floor was her bright and beautiful son. Beside him on the floor was a 30-30 deer rifle and half his face was blown off. he was still alive and the internal strength mom did not even know she had kicked in. Calmly she went to his side and called 9-11 then attended to him the best she could. It would be a couple of days before the weight hit her and she could not walk.

    The guy who had the world by the tail and who was the dream image of a perfect life. He tried to kill himself! Only at the very last moment with the barrel in his mouth his jaw relaxed a bit and the round instead of going up and in. Went to the side and took off part of his lower jaw and the soft flesh from the upper jaw to the cheek.

    When he finally felt like talking about it and explaining the why the tale was almost unbelievable or understandable. This handsome, intelligent and hard bodied boy was so terrified of speaking to women.
    He would get so nervous that he would stammer and stutter unable to get an entire sentence out.
    Day in and day out beautiful women were coming up to him wanting his attention and he would damn near wet his pants with nerves! He wanted them and needed them he wanted a good woman and live the life his parents had. But this aspect of his life had turned into a living Hell.

    Till finally he could not take it anymore, now I know what you are thinking. Why didn’t he seek help?
    Part of it is the reaction you have had reading this, he had it all poor baby he was what most men dream of being and he could not deal with being perfect? He could not deal with being wanted and desire by beautiful women? How could he had explained this? Going to a doctor and saying what needed to be said would sound more crazy then saying the space alien were after him.

    We are all broken people in one aspect or another sometimes it is not apparent or something one might consider looking at another’s life. He is happy now after several years of deep thought and the help of professionals. He works as a School custodian, his scars are plain and somewhat off putting.
    He is still bright and intelligent I seldom see him so I do not know of his relationship with women but I think he would be a great catch for some woman. His brother is a professor at MIT and he too could fit right in with other intellectuals. Why he did not continue on the path that would have led him to such awe from others is a question. Perhaps he is the living example of something I say: “For every one person who strives for the fame and noted appearance of a Einstein there are fifteen hundred equally intelligent that never strive for it“.

    • Don’t you think some of the areas we see as “success,” like physical attractiveness, athleticism, intelligence are also those areas that hide brokenness best? And don’t we just see these superficial things and nothing deeper? Anyone can suffer, no matter what they look like from the outside looking in.

      The person who sticks out because they are different might be the one we think is broken but in reality that person accepts themselves, doesn’t go along to get along, and maybe is better adjusted than many who have adopted an exterior that hides much they can’t cope with.

  6. Perhaps we all have to struggle to stay happy? Sometimes I find myself too busy “thinking” about life. Perhaps compassion becomes a bit simpler if we would just DO rather than THINK?

    Here’s a short story of compassion —

    A person I know was driving down the highway and saw a man pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair. It was pouring rain. On impulse the driver stopped his car, got out, gave the old woman an umbrella, smiled at her, and got back into his car and drove on.

    Probably not the act everyone would have seen as compassionate, but it was compassion and it didn’t take much. Stopping to think about it might not have turned out nearly as well. 😉

  7. Bad Biker

    We are all broken, in one manner or another. Since you all are my friends, I can share a bit of my story.

    I was an uber competitive industrial manager until a little more than a half dozen years ago. I was very proud of my competitiveness, my accomplishments and my willingness to be as ruthless as I needed to to be successful. I was also a strict single parent and a bit of a lady’s man.

    As the song says, “Ain’t good looking, but ya’ know I ain’t shy.” (B. Seger) Well, despite being as ugly as a warthog, I always had the best looking girlfriends – even in High School.

    I was one unhappy SOB.

    I made a change in my life – let my hair grow, wrote a book, moved out of Kansas. Things far too personal happened, and the shock of my early life came back and kicked my ass, badly.

    I am dysfunctional. I am heavily medicated. I no longer work as a corporate heavyweight, if fact, I no longer work period.

    I am happier now than I have been in many years, maybe ever, but I am still broken. Instead of aspiring to corporate greatness, I now aspire to be a good cook and a good friend.

    Earlier this year, I took another serious blow to my psyche. After years of being told that everything was equal in my parent’s eyes, my (so-called) father pretty much cut me out of his will, giving the bulk of his estate to my a-brother.

    It has taken me months to recover from that and I still have trouble with it.

    We are all broken, some of us just don’t realize it.

  8. jammer5

    When I was living (existing) in San Diego, during a shopping trip to Safeway, an individual stopped me and ask for a dollar to buy milk for his baby girl. I usually just shrug and move on, but this time I handed him the buck, and said good luck.

    While shopping, I noticed him hanging around the beer cooler. My first thought, the usual . . .another drunk. I started to get pissed and was going to read him the riot act about drinking, children and lying: great guy, me, huh?

    Before I could act out my brain fart, he walked away, got a quart of milk out, walked up to check out and payed. Then I did something I’ve never done. I stopped him and asked if he needed anything else. He said, no, you just did it for me, and walked away.

    Sometimes people can make fools of even the dumbest of us.

  9. tosmarttobegop

    I won’t go into details but sometimes all it takes is the right words at the right time.
    I came to learn I had saved a guy’s life simply by pointing out the obvious. it had so escaped him that he could only focus on what was wrong.

  10. tosmarttobegop

    Biker it could have been worst, I got cut out of dad’s will and I am a only child. But I can relate, it is like a slap to the face from the grave.

  11. lilacluvr

    But for the grace of God, go I?

    I’m not trying to be religious here but when I think about that sentence, it makes me think that as we journey through this life, we need to stop and think about how we are all connected.

    One ripple in the pond of humanity can fan out farther than we could ever imagine. And something as simple as a friendly smile and a hello to a perfect stranger, could make the difference in a person’s life.

    We all have the choice to be either a positive or negative force in life.

    I strive to be as positive as possible, but I swear these Social Conservative Republicans are making it more difficult by the day! But I eventually got to the point where I would debate with them on that other blog and then I would end my posting with a ‘remember, God loves you’ and it would throw them for a loop.

    Word can either build up or tear down.