The perils of forced Compassion and Loving-Kindness, Part 1
Compassion, the helping of those in need, is espoused as one of the greatest virtues a person can have. Politicians swear by it; religions espouse it; everyone seems to agree it is a good thing to do.
And there is no doubt it is a great virtue – but what if there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it? What if, in trying to help, we sometimes end up hurting ourselves – or the person we are trying to help?
“How is that possible?” you ask. Allow me to illustrate with a few examples.
Why we begin with ourselves
Ive stated before; Compassion has to begin with ourselves. How can we give what we dont have? If we look inside ourselves, and we see self hatred – and be aware, for such feelings are very often cleverly disguised as pride, or repressed – how can we give out Love? Whatever we give will be plastic replica; a cheap imitation at best, an insult at the very worst.
A teacher once told me that love is a by-product of a rising consciousness. As we get happier, it becomes simply natural to share the joy we have within. We have no other choice – otherwise we will simply burst apart at the seams! Finding the joy within – one of the most important things to do is to remove the suffering within – to accept ourselves, to heal our old wounds, to find and love the disowned parts of ourselves.
And this becomes especially important when we get to the teachings of Jesus: Love your enemy. How do we do so? Love yourself – everyone nods. Its wise, its the current catch phrase. Love your neighbor – and everyone nods again. How generous, how ego less! Love your enemy. But here it gets hard. Who wants to love the people who hurt them, and if they do, how do they do it right?
Loving your enemy
There are a few things that people try to do to their enemies. Forgiveness – which to most people simply means: Im still right, youre still wrong, youre still a bastard but Im a good person so I forgive you. Just dont do it again. And the other is acceptance – which simply means: Theres nothing I can do about it now, and my moaning is making me more upset, so Ill just swallow my pains silently.
Ive fallen into the same trap before. But true forgiveness comes simply when you see that there is nothing to forgive. And this is a hard pill to swallow. When you see the great design of Existence, when you truly see that what doesnt kill you only makes you stronger – you might even find gratitude for those who have hurt you.
This is a hard concept to explain; but they were covered in these posts: Gratitude for the Bad, and What your ego is – Part 1, and Part 2. Heavy reading, but it is an attempt to explain something that might be relevant. And these posts are not based on some sort of feel-good philosophy – Ive been intensively examining my own history and its starting to strike me how certain things, good or bad, just happened at the right time to teach me exactly the lesson I need to learn. And if I didnt learn from it, then it would hit me again and again and again – until I awoke and learnt from it.
But inside the flawed interpretation of forgiveness, lies danger. If someone slaps you in the face, or if you come face to face to the man who tortured you as a child – you remember what Jesus said, and you try to live up to it. You force a smile, you try to forgive, all the while holding back the fear, the anger, the grief that is still there in your chest.
Isnt this dangerous? Isnt this another form of running away from your pains? An open wound on your forearm, untended to, begins to rot. It is the same with the scars on our hearts – resentment and anger begins to build, to get worse than it was before. You might explode and seek revenge; you might go home and take it out on someone innocent, or it might show up in your body as illness – we can never hold something down for long. Fill yourself up with Love and it will spill over; fill yourself with hatred and the same happens.
Start within you
And in this roundabout way, we return to why we have to begin with ourselves. Why do we make enemies? Many reasons; but they all begin from within you. I have found three major causes within myself; I am preparing a series on them, but here they are in brief:
- They are pouring salt on an existing wound – accidentally or purposefully, it doesnt matter.
- They represent a part of yourself you have disowned
- They just happened to threaten your sense of self, your need for approval or security
But when you have gone deep into yourself, when you have healed your wounds, reclaimed your shadow, and cured all your insecurities and wants – who can hurt you? Im not talking about physical danger, but the majority of our wounds – the ones to our inner being.
Compassion begins from the heart
And the next step in our logic; that compassion has to begin from the heart. Any other form of compassion is tainted, and if the other person is perceptive – they will notice the falseness of your actions and respond in kind.
I have done it many times before attempted to be loving to those who have hurt me but inside me the resentment simply built. On top of the injury, I now had to suffer the insult of being “kind” to them. For days afterwards I would have fantasized about what would have happened if I had simply let my rage out on them, if I had put them in their place and let them know what I really thought about them.
I remember a disagreement with someone I had to work with in my design business. Its hard to say who was right or who was wrong, but things began to escalate quickly. I removed myself from the situation, calmed myself down, forced a smile on my face, and returned. I responded calmly to her verbal stings, and it worked – on an external level. We came to a compromise, and left on an uneasy truce.
But I was still stewing about it as I walked away. How dare she say that? What does she know? How could such an ignorant person exist? The mask of calmness I made myself wear made things worse – I felt I was right, but why was I the one who had to apologize to keep the peace? Why was I the one to back off?
But if I was alert – everything was a reflection of my internal struggles. Deep down inside, there must have been some insecurity – perhaps about my work, my skills, or my value as a person – that she had touched. I wouldnt have my anger arise if there wasnt. If someone had called me hideous, pointing at my hair and saying it was too long, there would have been no reaction – my hair is cropped short.
As I began to heal these wounds and insecurities, I begin to notice that the salt that was being poured on my body no longer found any broken skin to enter and sting. And when that happened, no longer was my smile a painted smile, a polite formality which hid a cold anger. It had slowly become a genuine calm. Could it be possible then, that a genuinely compassionate response could only arise from someone who has attained to such a level of mastery – could such a person be the only one to give out a Love that is rooted, organic, alive?
When no one can hurt you, when you have no buttons to push – that is when you see you have no enemies. That is when you see that everyone is your neighbor, they are just playing their roles, the jobs that they are placed on Earth to do. These roles your ego might not agree with, your ego might judge as bad, but you see that there is nothing that ever truly hurts you. It is simply there to make you stronger.
Perhaps, with that understanding, you can see that those who hurt you – they only do so because of their own internal wounds – and then, that understanding what a step towards compassion! By working on ourselves in this manner – perhaps that is when our compassion really begins to flow.
There are two blogs that are quickly gaining popularity, and rightly so. Both of them feature high quality content, and are written from the heart. Patricia Singletons Spiritual Journey of Lightworker has been a constant friend of Urban Monk since the early days, and her writings showcase her courage and compassion. A perfect example of this would be a series from the archives (not for the weak): Incest may be part of my life.
Another blog is by Lawrence Cheok, called a Long Long Road – he has a slightly different focus – great personal tips on relationships, the difference between men and women, and best of all – personal finance. An example of his classic financial material can be found at: Why Schools should teach Personal Finance.