"Compassion is a far greater and nobler thing than pity. Pity has its roots in fear, and a sense of arrogance and condescension, sometimes even a smug feeling of "I'm glad it's not me." As Steven Levine says: 'When your fear touches someone's pain it becomes pity. When your love touches someone's pain, it becomes compassion.' To train in compassion, then, is to know all beings are the same and suffer in similar ways, to honor those who suffer, and to know you are neither separate from nor superior to anyone." Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.
Training in compassion: You don't want to start with something you can't handle.
In the last five years I have felt compassion for holocaust victims, lynching victims, witch trial victims. I could reach out over a great distance in time and space and say to them, "My situation is no where near as grave as yours was, but I have new insight into what you must have gone through. I'm sorry for your pain."
It was more difficult to feel compassion for the people in the Rubber Room. We were not separated by time and space. We were too near to each other. Our fear, anger, and pain literally resonated off the walls. I am sure that someday they will invent a means to see the energy of suffering the way we can see X-rays today.
There was no way to idealize these all too human individuals. We annoyed each other endlessly. Some enjoyed pushing others over the edge and then testified about their "unprofessional behavior" at their 3020a hearing. Others loved to go around bad mouthing teachers and pronouncing the judgement, "And that's why he's here". Did people act this way to each other in the Nazi concentration camps? I think that they must have.
It is very difficult to feel compassion for other people who are in the same bad place that you are. You would think it would be easy, but it's not.