„Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek.“ ~ Dalai Lama
Have you ever had the situation where you wanted to live by compassion with other people but then been taken advantage of? Did you ever wanted to be kind but then encountered the opposite from the other party? Or was it the other way around?!
Sometimes when you try to live by high standards yourself you can get in trouble with people who don’t. Especially in our western competitive world, your advantage seems to mean an disadvantage for the other one. In most ball-games there are winners and losers. In most business areas there one dominating and the other one potentially going out of business. That’s competition.
When you go into a negotiation your positive results can depend on how high you lay the bar when entering the discussion. Just think about negotiating about a price. If you start by listening to the other party first you may start out fighting your way back up again, ending at what is barely tolerable for you.
On the other hand we know that being compassionate is one of the highest qualities to develop and on a larger scale necessary for humanity to survive. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Think win-win. That’s what already Stephen Covey „preached“ in his 7 habits, right? The golden rule says: Don’t do something to another that you yourself wouldn’t want to have happen to you. Now how does this all go together?
Most people I know tend to be either more dominant or more kind by nature. The disadvantage of each is that with the first you can become ignorant and non-empathic, which makes it hard to find meaningful and deep relationships where trust is the basis of. On the other hand, being too kind results in the unability to assert yourself and eventually to low self-esteem.
The Balance Between Compassion and Assertion
Finding the fine line between compassion and assertion is really the key. You have to notice when you need the one or the other. How can you balance both?
The answer lies in…
1) developing a strong inner foundation and having a healthy self-confidence. And…
2) it’s necessary to know when it’s time to be competitive, and when to be kind. And that can be even before you have met the other party yet.
Maybe you are tempted to say: „I want to be as strong and dominant as possible. I want to win, all the time. I don’t care much about how others do, that’s their responsibility. Teach me how to win!“
This approach may sound tempting and our society can make it look like it would reward this kind of mindset. But in reality this is really short-sighted. The reason is that by that you would work against your higher self. And this would backfire, 100% of the time.
The same is true when you try to be compassionate and mix it up with being „too soft“. Thinking win-win does not mean accepting lose-win.
What is Real Compassion?
Compassion is caring for the suffering of others and helping them to come out from the suffering.
Compassion shows real strength, because only if you are strong inside you can be open to be kind without knowing how the other person may react. Because however the reaction may be, it has no real power over you. So you can give without fear of being used.
So when someone sees compassion as weakness, it really shows his own lack of inner development, since he is still in the area where being compassionate is not yet possible for him. He is still in survival mode, unable to be more empathic and see the connectedness and oneness of all.
On the other hand, someone who can’t assert himself even if it would be necessary to stand up, shows a lack of courage and real weakness.
It is a real sensible act of balance.
Where Do You Stand?
I personally was raised with compassionate parents in an environment where asserting myself wasn’t encouraged. So I had to learn this quality in my 20’s more. Now I sometimes have to remind myself to look at the world from the eyes of the other person. All in all, I think I have found a good balance today.
Where do you stand? Do you live in perfect balance of both personal qualities already? Or is it easier for you to assert yourself and you have to work on your weakness and connect with the needs of other people better? Or do you are too kind sometimes and have to learn to assert yourself when necessary?
Let me know in the comments.
That’s nicely said Kimberly. Same view as mine.
Compassion and helping others in need does show real strength, especially when you do not expect anything in return, freely giving for the good of others. Approaching giving without restraint or fear takes a lot of character. When others take advantage of someone freely giving is when it is time to be assertive. Compassion is not being a doormat; it is part of being a well-rounded and balanced person. I have a tendency to try too hard with unbalanced people and be too patient. Sometimes you have to walk away, and that also takes strength.
@Mans, I think life has place for both components: survival of the fittest and compassion and caring for all of humanity.
Maybe there is a chronological and logical progression here, especially for the achiever type of personality. I mean that when you have achieved a lot of success, and you have fulfilled all of your personal needs, the next logical questions arises. And that question is: What else is there? …meaning: How else can I contribute and find meaning in this life?
This naturally leads to compassion and caring for all of humanity, and as for me potentially to spirituality.
I noticed this pattern in my personal life as well. I was always chasing success. Later I asked myself what the next level of personal evolution could be for me.
The biggest problem for me is my intense love for an evolutionary perspective. I always consider things to be „survival of the fittest“ at times, which makes it extremely difficult to get out of a dominance mindset.
However, I have had some terrible times in my life (particularly two years ago), so I have a lot of empathy, which tends to be effective on the compassionate side.
It is definitely a balance you must find for yourself, but also with others. You’re not going to be able to have the same level of assertion with everyone or compassion. Good post, Myrko!
Thanks for your insight @Karen. I like your statement about compassion showing emotional intelligence as being part of the success mindset.
Hi enjoyed reading your post.
I don’t think we need to have a balance between compassion and assertiveness. Compassion is not weakness, or being passive, or agreeing or allowing . And assertiveness is speaking our truth and being real to our needs in situations.
To me compassion is recognizing and accepting where someone is at – without judgement or criticism and honouring them in that place.We may not create suffering, and we are only responsible for ourselves but we are responsible to the oneness of humanity.
Compassionate reflection shows emotional intelligence and resilience and is the new ingredient for success, according to research.
It is a great subject.
Thanks for it.
@Brian Frank and @Abhishek Sharma: I think it’s interesting to ask how you can help others too. It’s not necessarily in a direct way, but it may also be through what we are doing on a daily basis!?
Well,i definitely agree that being compassionate is a great quality to have,though what we also needs to be aware that we can not permanently help each and everyone out there to come out of their suffering or there are people who have suffering in different forms all around us.So how i look at it is, to help some one whenever you got a chance to do that, and when ever you can, while not loosing your balance by being too kind.As what we also needs to take care is, what ever be the form of suffering even that’s also not going to be ever existant,as the ultimate end of all of us is, we are all going to dissolve with the supereme.So maintaining a great blanace is absolutely essential,while being compassionate.
I agree with pretty much everything you said in your post. It can be difficult to assert yourself and still show compassion. The difficult part I think for most is feeling anger or hate when being assertive. You can show compassion with love and still be assertive. „Compassion is caring for the suffering of others and helping them to come out from the suffering.“ This part is only half true.
Compassion is the caring for the suffering of others but we cannot directly help others come out of their suffering we can only show guidance if asked for it. It is not our responsibility to to stop the suffering of others, that is impossible. We can lead by example and that is the best way to help.
I think seeing compassion as a weakness has its root cause in not being connected to the whole. Empathy and Oneness is not possible because your own egoic self doesn’t feel enough yet. So you are ignorant and in survival of the fittest mode. When you develop and realize that giving and feeling connected is on a higher scale, especially when you have reached a certain „level of survival“, compassion becomes more valuable. You’re not only caring for yourself but for more than just your own good.
@Vincent, I think being able to assert yourself makes real compassion possible, because you are in no danger of getting abused anymore.
I would not say I have a perfect balance but I definitely do know when to be either or to use both together. I used to see compassion as a weakness but thats because I was very narrow-minded. Compassion is a huge gift and it can go hand in hand with assertiveness quite well.