Why people feel compassion for Dzhokar Tsarnaev

People wonder why spiritually liberal people can be so quick to express compassion for Dzhokar Tsarnaev, this 19 year old boy who will never see a free moment again in his life. 

It is because he is the one in front of us now. 

Compassion is fluid; it is alive in the present and flows toward those who are suffering. It is infinite -- compassion toward Dzhokar Tsarnaev does not diminish the compassion felt for Martin Richard when he is in front of us.

Compassion is not judgment, which makes choices and priorities. Judgment weighs and measures and reasons. Judgment, which we give to the judicial system to exercise finally, will deal firmly with Tsarnaev. It's a whole other thing.

But at every moment, someone has your attention, and in that moment, you will be feeling some emotion: compassion, hatred, indifference, affection. Spiritual liberalism notices that if you build a habit of compassion, you will be happier, healthier, more able to love and receive love. 

The world will be better, too.

(I posted this on Facebook on April 20, 2013) 


  1. I'll think about this Tom. My wife, who is a criminal defense attorney, often remarks of mass murderers who then take their own lives, "why didn't they just commit suicide first?" Was Bonhoeffer lacking in compassion (or less happy) for attempting to assassinate Hitler? And if we feel compassion for whoever is in front of us, doesn't that rob the perpetrator of the opportunity to repent his misdeeds and then receive pardon from his victim -- since the perpetrator is already receiving the victim's compassion? I don't think I'm enlightened enough to answer these questions.

  2. Jennifer Crawford5:50 PM

    A Response to Revolutionary Spirits: We needn't assume that Bonhoeffer lacked compassion for Hitler just because he attempted to assassinate Hitler. His compassion for others led him to believe that was the best course of action. One can conclude that and also feel sorry for Hitler in that his own life journey led him to become twisted. If pardon comes before repentance rather than after, does that really rob the perpetrator of anything? Repentance involves recognizing that one's deeds were wrong and committing to do right. These things are necessary in themselves, not as a means to getting a pardon that has been withheld.


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