Is compassion a weakness?
Often in our society, people talk about ideas like, “Every man for himself.”, “Only the strong survive.”, and so on and so forth. We hold fast to the idea that, if you work hard enough, you will have everything you need (or at least, everything you deserve). It’s a complicated thought to tease apart and get to the center of- because it is so prevalent in many areas of our culture. Where it shows up often, as of late, is around the idea of public assistance and the debate as to whether or not we, as a society, should be helping those who are in need.
I believe that we, as human beings, are all connected. I also believe that how we choose to treat others often reflects how we actually feel about ourselves. It’s an important thing to look at- the way that you show up for other people. Our behavior can indicate a layer of beliefs about ourselves that we may not even be aware of. So, what does it mean to have compassion or to care about helping others who are in need? I don’t think it makes a difference whether they are in need financially, energetically, emotionally, or in any other manner. It’s all the same in our response, really. If you are able to show up in a truly compassionate way for others (without it being simply a means to prove to yourself that you are better than those who you are helping), it means that you are able to practice self-compassion to begin with.
It takes a certain strength that most of us must consciously develop to really take care of ourselves. For me, it took learning a whole new way of defining myself in order to get to the point of being able to know what I needed and ask for it. I was deeply ingrained in the practice of self-deprecation, based on low self worth combined with the idea that the only way for me to gain value was to work hard and do everything all by myself. As a result of how I felt about myself, my compassion for other people was also limited. Sure, I did volunteer work and I was willing to give donations to the food bank. But I was full of all kinds of judgments when I encountered people in my own life who were in need. I thought they weren’t strong enough. I judged them that they didn’t just pull up their bootstraps and work as much and as hard as it took to get what they needed. I expected them work themselves to the bare bones, and then just figure out how to make due with what they had. Of course, in my own life, I worked long hours at a job I really couldn’t stand. If I didn’t have enough money for groceries, I would rather eat ramen for weeks at a time then ask anyone for help. I suffered through because I thought that anything less would be shameful. And in the process, I applied these same self-judgments to everyone around me.
As life would have it, the Universe came along and swept the old way of being out of my life completely. I found myself suddenly unable to work, or really do much of anything at all for myself. So I was forced to learn self-compassion. I had to ask for help and accept it, without feeling like a failure. It took me a while, but I learned that I deserved the help that I needed. I was valuable, I had a life of purpose (we all do), and getting my needs met through the compassion of others was perfectly okay. More than okay, it was good for everyone involved.
I came out of that time in my life understanding that this is how we were all made to co-exist. Helping each other, accepting the help of others, and turning around and helping each other some more. This cycle ultimately lifts EVERYONE up- no matter where they were when they first received help. It is empowering to all involved, because those who have been given something will jump at the first chance they have to pay it forward. It allows every single person to see their own inherent value, and when we know how valuable we are- then we can really stand up and do the amazing things that we came into this lifetime to accomplish.
Mantra of the day: