Don’t Be Cruel

A plea for kindness in a mad world.

One could fill a book with reasons why people are cruel or compassionate. Several of our faculty just did.
The first chapter in The Psychology of Compassion and Cruelty: Understanding the Emotional, Spiritual, and Religious Influences (Praeger) opens with the unsettling observation that our ability to recognize pain in others gives us the ability to not only alleviate pain but accentuate it: “The worst torturer to have,” the author of one chapter writes, “is an empathic one (who puts the gun to your child’s head rather than your own).” But this is no grim book. Edited by Thomas G. Plante, psychology professor and director of SCU’s Spirituality and Health Institute, the volume examines scientific evidence showing how certain psychological, spiritual, and religious factors spur compassion and deter cruelty. Among SCU contributors: Plante and Erin Callister ’14 look at efforts to promote compassion during higher education, such as through community-engagement programs; Management Professor André L. Delbecq shares results of a pilot study suggesting that organizations should develop leadership training on how to express compassion at work; Diane E. Dreher, professor of English and associate director of the Spirituality and Health Institute, examines how mindfulness practices can reduce stress and cultivate greater compassion, clarity, and effective decision making; Sarita Tamayo-Moraga, a Zen priest and senior lecturer in religious studies, explores how the mindfulness practices of Zen Buddhism may promote compassion; and Barbara M. Burns, professor and director of liberal studies, describes the critical role parental compassion plays in child development.

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