The reactions to some stories this summer show even good qualities in people have become another metric on which we judge people.
In recent weeks, the killing of Cecil, a lion living at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, has prompted outrage around the world. Many people online have offered condolences for Cecil, and the death has brought the issue of trophy hunting and wildlife poaching to the forefront of debate.
Earlier this summer, Caitlyn Jenner came out as a trans woman, and received the Arthur Ashe Award at the ESPYs for her courage to do so. When Jenner revealed her gender identity, she received praise for her courage and for her role in bringing issues facing the transgender community to attention.
However, while many people showed empathy, compassion and respected courage, there were those who disagreed with the coverage of the stories and people caring about the issue. Common comments heard are “You care more about the death of a lion than the death of thousands at the hands of ISIS,” for example, or Jenner isn’t courageous for coming out, when people are battling cancer and soldiers are fighting to protect freedoms overseas.
It’s enough to make people shake their head.
When did the traits we value, like compassion, courage and empathy, become a competition? To these people uttering complaints, there is a hierarchy of caring. One item on the top matters, everything else is not worthy of consideration. These people believe they are more compassionate than others because they care about more important issues.
It is possible to feel sadness at the senseless death of a lion, just as you can feel sad about thousands being executed by a terrorist organization. Death takes different forms and grieving is something we all have to deal with.
Courage takes many forms as well. Finding the strength to be who you are in a judgmental society, risking your life overseas and battling a terminal illness are all brave and worthy of our respect.
To use another commonly trotted-out argument, you can also care about children living in poverty in Third World countries, as well as the poverty of children in our own country.
Compassion, empathy, courage, bravery and other qualities are not an Olympic sport with gold, silver and bronze medals handed out, yet lately, it feels like they’re being treated that way. It’s ugly, pointless and it needs to stop. Life is not a competition to see who can “care” more.