Compassion and empathy can solve so many of the pains that arrive in the office

There she was — compassion. It had been so long since I had caught sight of her, I wasn’t sure at first if I recognized her. Had she had changed so much over the years or had I? She was peeking around the corner checking in to see how I was doing. I am surprised she still visits me, after the way I treated her all those years ago. If I let myself, I can easily remember that time. Those had been rough days when it wasn’t safe to have her around anymore. I wasn’t alone, so many others in my class were doing the same thing. Each in their own way turned inward and put up walls and barriers to protect themselves. My compassion had been placed in a safe room deep inside while I went about the business of learning medicine. I could not have her hanging out with me in medical school; it would have destroyed her completely, and likely me as well. Like others, I built my defenses so that she and I would remain safe in the process. I build walls and barriers out of biting wit and edgy sarcasm. I weaponized my intellectual capacity to deliver maximum harm with minimal effort.

I am surprised that compassion still peeks around the corner at me.

Compassion is watching me take care or a five-year-old who has a very sore throat and doesn’t want me to have a look at it. Her father is in favor of just holding her still and forcing her mouth open, but that is the standard answer of a staff sergeant in the infantry. Do what needs to be done, regardless of how unpleasant it might be, and move on. You do not gripe. You do not complain. You get the job done.

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