Proactive Compassion:
Anticipating and Responding to Vulnerabilities

compassion photo (a)

Traditionally, compassion has been understood as a response to harm. When we see people suffering, we are moved to help them if we can, especially if they are innocent victims who could not have foreseen or prevented their problems.

In our complex, specialized world, retrospective compassion is not enough. Many contemporary harms are the unintended byproducts of cooperative agreements that produce benefits as well as harms. In these cases, compassion must work differently. Like parents who protect children before they get hurt, we practice proactive compassion by anticipating harms on behalf of others.

Three practices are helpful:

  1. Respond to risks revealed by specialization
  2. Intercept harms triggered by change
  3. Address gaps between assigned responsibilities

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