Is Compassion For Others Overrated?
In spiritual circles, it is common for people to state that we should “come from compassion”. Whilst compassion is a high vibrational state, actually few really know how to practise it. The way that many people purport to practise it actually takes them a few notches down in the spiritual evolutionary ladder.
If we’re talking about true compassion, yes, coming from compassion is the way to go. But most people misuse it, to the detriment of their own wellbeing.
There comes a point in our spiritual growth when whenever we see someone behaving badly, our first inclination may be to say, “Oh, but we must have compassion.” As a result, we may tolerate bad behaviours when others treat us badly or are abusive towards us.
I see people sometimes get stuck once they have embraced the concept of compassion for others, when they find themselves on the receiving end of abusive treatments. They feel they have nowhere to go, since they have been taught that compassion is the high road, so the tendency then is to turn the blame on themselves or remain in situations that continue to disempower them.
An abuser is an abuser. If you are being abused, having compassion for your abuser is often not going to lift you out of the situation. I have seen people stuck and trapped in these situations for many years, because of the misuse of compassion.
Sometimes, it is more spiritual to say, fuck compassion. Until we learn what true compassion is, and we understand its nuances, using the compassion card can hold us back or even damage us. It can keep us trapped in disempowering situations, dilute our personal power, make us vague and ambiguous, confuse us, and blind us from the Truth. It can even block us from reaching the place of true compassion.
It makes us passive while someone is doing something bad. Sometimes, taking certain actions is part of our lessons in our spiritual journey. Saying no to an abuser can be more healing and powerful, and ultimately more loving, than remaining passive in the name of compassion while we continue to tolerate their abuses. The abuser might never learn the consequences of their actions if we don’t put a stop to the dynamics being played out.
How It Fits Into the Big Spiritual Picture
Of course, we know that ultimately we are the creators of our reality. That is totally true. The physical reality which we have created is fluid, malleable, according to what we do with our unseen powers. This is why it is said that reality is an illusion, a projection of our consciousness, a dream state. But that does not exempt us from participating in it and taking ‘right actions’.
Immature spiritual seekers can be quick to jump at the chance to say, “I can do anything I like, since it is an illusion anyway,” or, “If you don’t like what I do, you have created your reality in which I am in it.” Thus, exempting themselves from being held responsible for their actions. To me, this is the seediest, lowest demonstration of the misuse of spirituality. If we are truly spiritual, we would know that being kind and decent to others is the most basic spiritual principle. Being ropy by deliberately misusing the concepts of spirituality to con and manipulate others is the furthest from being spiritual.
It is true that the ability to have compassion for others is one of the highest levels of spirituality. But compassion towards yourself precedes it. Most of the time, when people say they are coming from compassion, they end up compromising themselves, and that is not true compassion, not even for the other person.
Isn’t it all about forgiving others and elevating ourselves to a higher perspective?
Ultimately, yes. But very often this can become a trap for us.
Along the way of our spiritual journey, we get hurt and betrayed by others. Part of growing spiritually is learning to be okay within ourselves, to hold our power in the face of being invalidated by others, to become stronger in our sense of self through our experiences of falling down and picking ourselves up again. This is a lifelong trip for most people, and to expect these learnings to come to an end is often unrealistic and pointless.
There is this sweeping, generalised ‘rule’ in certain spiritual circles that nothing short of having every relationship in your life perfectly healed and harmonious at all times will do; that if you have a broken relationship in your life it means you are failing in some way. Sometimes, the most nurturing thing to do for yourself is to maintain a distance from certain individuals rather than trying to force a relationship to be a certain way. Because if you damage your relationship with yourself, then there is little with which you can relate to another in a balanced way anyway.
I say this because what’s true for most people is that somewhere in them there is an unconscious agenda to sabotage themselves, and remaining in certain dysfunctional relationships is an old, familiar way for them to remain disempowered.
What Is True Compassion?
True compassion must begin with an honest evaluation of whether you have enough compassion for yourself first. This is the foundation from which true compassion for others can be practised. Without checking your self-compassion, you may be driven from a place of attachment rather than love, and risk crossing over into the territory of self-compromise.
When you’re attached, you are holding on to expectations around certain people due to fear of losing someone or something. From this place of fear, you may be confused about what your true needs are, and what is truly good for the other person. Fear dilutes your truth, while giving yourself adequate space long enough for you to strengthen in your truth will go further in ensuring more loving, authentic relationships.
#2 Inner Practice
True compassion is an inner practice, without it being necessarily expressed outwardly. There is no ego involved, and therefore, no need to demonstrate it to another. It is like the difference between donating money publicly and anonymously. When you can feel compassion for someone without changing the way you act, but fulfilled in knowing you have made this shift in your own private world, you are closer to true compassion.
#3 Not Condoning
When someone is acting in ways that aren’t aligned with your deepest truth, you condoning their behaviours is not an act of true compassion. You can have compassion for how they have ended up in this position, but by condoning their behaviours you would simply be keeping them stuck in this position. It is not a loving act.
If you’re tempted to overlook or condone someone’s behaviours that are hurtful, harmful or damaging, ask yourself honestly why you want to do that. Is there an unhealed aspect of your life that you don’t want to address, and by condoning this set of behaviours you can continue to avoid addressing it?
#4 The Greater Good
When looking at someone’s behaviours, look through the perspective of how they impact others as well. Some people have a way of getting away with treating people badly – are you going to do something about it, to make a stand for what you deeply believe, or will you let it slide even though you feel strongly about it? Are you considering the greater casualties, and taking a stance from that?
True compassion is when you give up what you might be doing to protect your ego, in favour of protecting the greater good.
True compassion is a high-level spiritual practice because it entails rising out of our ego’s attachments to a place of love. It is easy to fool ourselves that we are indeed practising compassion. Let’s refine our practice of compassion. This, by the way, means working towards the practice of true compassion, since I’d be the first to admit that it isn’t child’s play.
How are you elevating your practice of compassion today?