Genuine Compassion

“Compassion sometimes requires us to be firm, to disappoint, and to say no. True compassion is giving from a place of authenticity and integrity as opposed to giving from a place of obligation and expectation.” -Candace Thoth

As a society we praise individuals who sacrifice their lives for the well-being of others. We idolize individuals who continuously give and those who always seem “nice.” For many years, I truly believed that my purpose was to make others feel good even at the expense of my own well-being. This mentality quickly led to compassion fatigue and burnout, but it ultimately allowed me to see where I had been untrue to myself and others. Here are some of the misconceptions I had about compassion:

  1. A compassionate person should rarely say no to others.
  2. A compassionate person should always put others first.
  3. A compassionate person should always makes people feel good.
  4. A compassionate person should always go out of their way to help.
  5. A compassionate person should “fix it” whenever someone is suffering.

The above statements are just a few of the many misconceptions I had about what it means to be compassionate. Contrary to my intentions, operating from these beliefs resulted in being inauthentic and becoming resentful. Giving because we think we should or because we feel obligated to give is not true giving. Taking on the weight of the world and trying to “fix” things to make people feel better is ultimately harmful to ourselves and others. When we are over-responsible for others, we rob them of their opportunity to walk their own path. Additionally, we add unnecessary stress to our lives and sabotage our well-being. Sometimes the most effective way to help someone is by telling them no or even letting them go.

Genuine compassion means being true to ourselves, saying no when we mean no, living with integrity, and respecting people’s path. There is no need to “sacrifice” our integrity or well-being in order to be genuinely compassionate. When we are true to ourselves, we are at peace, which is the most compassionate thing we can do for the world.

Boundaries as Compassion

Boundaries

Boundaries are important and essential in developing healthy and fulfilling interpersonal interactions and relationships. Boundaries are a way to communicate our level of self-respect and dignity. Without boundaries, we set ourselves up to be disrespected and mistreated whether it’s intentional or not. The things we remain silent about or do not state clearly will not be honored and may even be challenged or ignored. Passively allowing unacceptable behaviors (e.g., disrespect, abuse, etc) to happen to us does not benefit anyone. Boundaries are important to set with everyone we meet. This past week, I had my boundaries challenged in an unexpected way which fortunately served as a reminder of the importance of having a clear awareness of my personal boundaries as well as stating them in a way that can be clearly understood.

I encourage us to view boundaries from the perspective of compassionate limit-setting as opposed to guardedness. When boundaries are set in a respectful and loving way, they can deeply enhance interpersonal interactions and relationships. Below are some self-reflective questions regarding boundaries that you may find helpful.

Self-Reflective Questions

  1. What are some of your boundaries? (e.g., behaviors that are acceptable versus unacceptable)
  2. How often do you communicate your boundaries to others?
  3. Which situations do you find it more challenging to maintain your boundaries?
  4. What feelings are elicited when your boundaries are breached? How do you cope with these feelings?
  5. What are some ways to enhance your ability to maintain your boundaries?

Mahalo for reading! May you experience infinite peace and blessings~