Compassion in our Community
by Bill Venners
May 9, 2022

After having served six years, I stepped down as community representative on the Scala Center Advisory Board at our most recent meeting. It was the end of my term, and we wanted to make room for new voices. This was my parting message.

In our community, we have had serious disputes over the years. In my role as community representative, I went on several listening tours to gather people’s feelings and opinions about these disputes. I want to share some thoughts about compassion that I think would be helpful for us to keep in mind as we interact in the community in the future.

First, the golden rule: treat others as you would like them to treat you. It's just a good way to think about how to treat other people, but it can also be good for you. As people say, "What goes around, comes around. ” If you treat others badly, it may come back to you. If you treat others well, that’s likely to come back to you also.

An important application of the golden rule is to give others the benefit of the doubt. Presume good intent. If we see someone has done something, we know what they did but we don't know why they did it. If you would prefer others to assume you have good intent, then unless you have actual evidence of bad intent, it is best to assume others have good intent.

Another way to treat others well is to differentiate facts about others from conclusions we have drawn from those facts. When we don’t have full information, we have to connect the dots. It is good to keep in mind that any lines we draw between dots of fact are just our conclusions, and we may have drawn those lines wrongly.

Look for a way to resolve conflicts that cools temperatures. If you de-escalate, it will help the community, and will also likely help you.

Lastly, I think it is helpful to try to be compassionate towards others even if we feel they don’t deserve it. A good exercise is to think of people you feel deserve compassion the least, then find a way to show compassion to them.

If we can treat each other with greater compassion in our individual interactions, online and in person, I believe that will improve everyone’s experience of our community as a whole.

About the author

Bill Venners is president of Artima, Inc. He is the lead developer of the ScalaTest and Scalactic open source libraries and coauthor of Programming in Scala, Fifth Edition.