Hull: Compassion vs. Judgement

Well it's been a wingding of a week, as my Grandma would say, in the news. Frankly, it is a wonder that we manage to function at all with any kind of hope in the future after listening to the news and reading the headlines in the paper. A death o...

Well it’s been a wingding of a week, as my Grandma would say, in the news.
Frankly, it is a wonder that we manage to function at all with any kind of hope in the future after listening to the news and reading the headlines in the paper. A death of a friend or a loved one is always the most shocking to our system. I think that there were very few people who weren’t affected in one way or another by the tragic death of Robin Williams.
It’s funny how everybody suddenly became an expert on depression and suicide after this sad event. I certainly learned a lot from reading all of the commentary, unfortunately some of it was extremely uneducated and judgmental. The most important tidbit that I learned was to make sure that my writing was from my own personal experiences and not just offering advice based on my desire to be heard. In addition, I need to remember to be compassionate in my commentary. I read many angry responses to the writers who took it upon themselves to be judge and jury and Lord knows, I don’t want you to be angry at me. Well, at least not yet. Just kidding.
For those of us affected by the loss of Robin Williams, I suspect that his death impacted us so much due to the many heartwarming performances he gave us. I know that I felt like I knew him and that he was a friend. How does this happen when we don’t even personally know someone? I used to laugh at my Grandma when she talked or yelled at the characters on television. Boy, when she watched her soap operas, you better stay a safe distance away, especially when they were doing stupid stuff. She was definitely going to give them a piece of her mind. Fortunately, there was Lawrence Welk to balance her out, so that we could all live in peace. I am obviously exaggerating, but these shows and their actors really did have an influence on her. It seems that most of us spend a great deal of time watching television or going to the movies, consequently, we probably all have an actor that we feel attached to or at the very least are somewhat invested in their life. They come into our living rooms and invite us on a temporary escape into their world. For some of us this is a welcomed reprieve from reality.
Something that I have always harped on to my kids is to make it personal! If you are driving down the road and there is a driver that is making you nuts, what do you do? Now, I am not making generalizations or trying to stereotype, just making an example from my firsthand experience. No ruffled feathers please. If the driver happens to be elderly and driving very slow, and I happen to be in a hurry, my natural first reaction is to be irritated and short tempered. But if I take a breath and imagine that the driver is my Grandma whom I love dearly, then I will probably respond much more compassionately. Making the situation personal gives me an opportunity to respond differently.
My husband was driving home on the freeway once and he accidentally switched lanes and didn’t see the motorcycle approaching alongside. Fortunately, he missed the biker, but boy was that guy angry at my husband. He pulled alongside him, flipped him off and actually followed him all the way to the four-way stop by our house. I know that he won’t read my article, so I am safe to say that he is a few tools short in the toolbox. He took off his helmet at the stop sign, walked over to my husband’s car and proceeded to yell obscenities! Believe it or not, this guy is our neighbor! I guess he never stopped to think about the ramifications of his reaction to my husband’s mistake. My husband was sorry and apologized profusely but our neighbor didn’t care and never thought about how this might affect our living next to each other. This has been a great story for me to share with our kids as they became drivers out on the road. They can choose to make their responses personal and compassionate or they can be like our neighbor.
Speaking of choices, one of the statements that drove me crazy in regards to Robin William’s death was that suicide is a choice, unlike cancer, which isn’t a choice. I heard writers saying that suicide is selfish. Let me tell everyone here that death is death and the pain of that loss doesn’t care whether it is a choice or not! It’s such a subjective statement anyway.
For a second, let’s look at cancer and see how stupid that statement is. If you are diagnosed with lung cancer and have been a smoker all your life, does that mean that you are selfish and are choosing to die? How about melenoma? What if you have been an avid outdoorsman, or loved the beach all your life, and then later in your life you are diagnosed with skin cancer? Does that make you selfish? Who are we to make all of these statements without any thought to the damage that might be caused by the reckless words? Make it personal people! If your daughter, or your husband, or your mom, or in my case my son, died by suicide, what would we say about it then?
Why do we need to say anything that does not begin with compassion anyway? Maybe if we practiced, we could get better at this. I know that I am not perfect at this all the time but my own pain has taught me to look at people and their situations differently. I look a little deeper and pause for just a moment before I open my mouth. I hate eating my feet!! Unfortunately, I think the more pain that we experience in life can offer us the opportunity to be more kind. We can relate, firsthand, personally about another’s pain.
There has been nothing worse in my life, no deeper pain, than the loss of our son to suicide. My gut aches every second of the day. Let’s just say that even if this was my son’s choice, or Robin Williams’ choice, does that make it any different for the ones left behind? Do those wrong suppositions accomplish anything? Do they make the world happier or make anybody feel better? Of course not! So let’s make our words and thoughts count for something. Say something kind, helpful or compassionate instead. Make your commentary personal and uplifting as if you were talking to someone you love! Let’s give it a try.

Hull is a wife, mother and motivational speaker and writer who, like many others, recently moved to Dickinson because of the energy industry. She writes a recurring column for Our Town and blogs at

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