Why I Practice Compassion

boys growling

Kozo Hattori explains why he practices compassion above all else while raising his sons.



After soccer on Saturday, we made plans with another family to eat at Subway. On the way to the restaurant, 7 year old Jett threw a tantrum.

“I don’t want Subway. Subway is yucky.”

This seems to be a new pattern of hating foods that were once loved.

“Jett, we told Ryan and Aiden that we would meet them there. We can’t just leave them hanging,” I replied.

“You’re not compassionate,” screamed Jett.

When I heard this, part of me was thrilled that Jett knew and used the word compassionate in context, but another part of me was irritated that he was using this against me just because he wasn’t getting what he wanted.

“Jett, just because you have to eat Subway sandwiches does not mean that I am not compassionate,” I responded sternly.

“You will never be compassionate,” Jett yelled.

Now this statement pissed me off because I suspected that Jett was mimicking his mother. My wife, who is a psychologist, doesn’t believe that people, especially men like me, can increase their empathy or compassion.

Suddenly, I was flooded with feelings of resentment, outrage, and irritation. How could my son and my wife betray me like this? They, more than anyone else, should know how hard I work at compassion. They see how much I meditate. Don’t they know who the f*#k I think I am?


This episode gave me insight into some of my deepest fears and insecurities. Was I raising compassionate boys in order to look better in the eyes of others? Why did I need my compassion acknowledged by others? Why did I let a little comment from a 7 year old child destroy my peace of mind?

After sitting with these feelings for a few days, I realized that true compassion does not always have a good ROI (Return on Investment). Compassion rarely cares about the bottom line.

In fact, being compassionate can be downright painful. Much of the work that Mother Teresa performed in Calcutta was not easy. Jesus was in a lot of pain when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Practicing compassion is a thankless job. Most of the countless individuals who cultivate compassion on a daily basis go completely unnoticed and unappreciated. My wife and my sons may never recognize how much I do to bring more compassion into our family.

Moreover, being compassionate rarely gets us what we want. After 55 years of being THE spokesperson for compassion, the Dalai Lama is still exiled from his home in Tibet.

So why do I practice compassion? I practice compassion because everything in my experience, my body, and my heart tell me that it is the right thing to do. Every time I’ve acted compassionately everyone involved has walked away a little happier, understood, and closer. I can’t say the same thing about any other motivation to act—desire, passion, greed, self-preservation, etc.

I’m not writing this to brag or get some approval that I don’t get from my wife and sons (at least, I hope that is not my motivation). I’m writing this because I want to be clear to myself and others why I practice compassion.

I may never live to see the seeds of my compassion grow. Others may never recognize me as a compassionate being. But I have no other choice. When I sit very still, I recognize in the depth of my humanness, compassion is what is called for–at all times.

I hope this resonates with you. I hope you join me on this journey towards peace and kindness. Yet even if you don’t, I honor the journey you are on and how it contributes to the greater good.

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