“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:
- A compassionate person should rarely say no to others.
- A compassionate person should always put others first.
- A compassionate person should always makes people feel good.
- A compassionate person should always go out of their way to help.
- 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.