“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.