Perhaps as many as 30% of people believe firmly and express openly that the poor and destitute are unworthy of compassion; another 30% believe it firmly and express it in private; and another 30% believe it firmly but do not dare express it. Barely 10%, if that many, understand that all beings (actually, just humans for the vast majority of these kind persons) are worthy of compassion.
Of that 10% who have some inkling, not even 5% understand that the source of this worth is not some putative dignity emanating from the collective struggle against our ‘baser selves’, but our perfect nature. Of those who ascribe a perfect nature (to humans, only), at least 95% believe that this nature is not inherent, but rather is a pale reflection of, or an unmerited gift from, an all-powerful creator, who can choose to bestow it when appeased, or withhold it when angry.
Even among the few who understand that the perfect nature of humans is truly inherent, there are many who believe that we can lose it through ‘sin’. Among the very, very few that understand that our perfect nature is inherent, truly established, and permanent, some believe that it is ‘every man for himself’ in this world, and that we have no responsibility to extend a caring hand to others.
I describe this context (the percentages are most definitely inexact, but the analysis is not) so that we can begin to appreciate that every act of compassion and kindness is truly exceptional —not only in the actual performance, but in the understanding that all sentient beings are worthy of compassion, even if (and in spite of) the occasional brief reversion to the wrong view held overwhelmingly by our peers.
If and when such thoughts arise, let us be grateful that they do not last, and that they do not guide our conduct, but are a mere vestige of a dominant wrong view, overcome by kindness.