When are we acting with true compassion and when are we believing we are being compassionate but actually just tolerating or going along with bad behavior because we want to be a nice person, a good friend or a good partner? If you believe being compassionate means accepting people where they are while condoning, accepting, enabling or excusing their bad behavior, that is not compassion at all but instead an affront to your soul.
Chela Davison calls this kind of compassion “Idiot Compassion.” She states “Idiot Compassion says, “Let it be. We are all the same. This behavior comes from ignorance. Love anyway.” Idiot Compassion paralyses. Allows for. Hides on the sidelines and nods. Idiot Compassion is ignorance dressed in love’s clothing.” In other words when we exercise “idiot compassion” we think we are giving something good to another by feeling sorry for them and their circumstances, but what we really are doing is aligning with their poor choices and attitudes when we know better, and in doing so we sacrifice our own good sense and integrity. Our souls suffer.
What then does true compassion look like? Davison writes: Compassion says “Let it move. Be aware. This behavior comes from ignorance. Make a choice of right action. Love while doing it.” Compassion is active. Elevates. Demands. Enlightens… Compassion feels into and moves through.” In other words, when you recognize someone is behaving badly, true compassion recognized the ignorance, the fear, the intolerance towards others that drives it, really the lack of self-awareness or self-esteem and calls the person into something higher, either directly or by example. True compassion says I see you, in your state, and because I feel the incongruence of it with what my soul knows to be right, I do not condone, I do not say and do nothing, I do not make excuses, I do not feel sorry for you and go along with your story. Instead I chose right action. Right action builds the souls voice inside you and uplifts your sense of integrity.
Idiot compassion says we are all the same. We are NOT all the same. We are not all at the same station in our journey towards maturity and enlightenment. To align and condone and participate directly or indirectly with bad behavior cheats you of knowing and experiencing yourself in your highest potential. It robs you of your joy and sucks precious energy, therefore life, from you. You cannot know truth and the beauty of who you are while you are in the ditch with someone who feeds off your misplaced goodwill. It is okay to recognize we are not the same. You do not owe your life, very literally I mean your minutes, hours, days or energy to people who drag you down rather than lift you up. If you feel drained, worried, confused or scared even, in the presence of another or somehow threatened in some way by not going along with their sad story, you are not extending compassion at all. You are enabling them to continue, to stay stuck, remain ignorant and you are denying yourself the opportunity to be in a state of joy.
You know from experience in your own life what bad behavior looks like but just in case here are some examples: friends who only talk about themselves counting on you to listen to their latest crisis but don’t have time for you when you need an ear, lying spouses, complainers that do nothing to change, unsolicited opinion givers, judgmental people, slacker co-workers and so on. The question becomes what does ‘right behavior’ look like? What steps can we take to be truly compassionate?
Here are some tips:
1. Recognize that you are practicing “idiot compassion” with people in your life. Notice when you are going along with bad behavior or some idea or some story either by saying nothing, condoning or making excuses for this person. You may have to do an inventory of your own bad behavior and, clean up your act at the same time you clean up your environment.
2. Get clear about your integrity, who and how you want to be in the world, what are your boundaries, limits and expectations around how you behave and what you will accept in relationships. Remember: true compassion is active, it elevates, demands (more from yourself and others) and enlightens.
3. Ask yourself, what am I worried will happen if I take a stand against this? Do I fear confrontation, anger, losing the relationship, appearing difficult or stuck up?
4. Ask yourself, what do I have to gain from removing myself from this toxic behavior? Free time, more energy, less worry, confidence about who you are, less drama, less toxicity, greater integrity?
5. Stop going along. Stop listening, accepting excuses or less than the truth. Acknowledge to yourself when a relationship no longer fits with your integrity. You might simply decide to stop spending time with someone or a group of people (gossips, complainers etc). In some cases you might have to ask someone to leave – give them an out – or ask them to get out, it will depend on the relationship. Your soul will thank you and one of two things will happen: the person you are dealing with will step up and grow as a result of what they witness or they will move on to someone willing to stay stuck with them. Either way YOU WIN!!