quote du jour ~pema chodron – idiot compassion

The third near enemy of compassion is idiot compassion. This is when we avoid conflict and protect our good image by being kind when we should definitely say “no.” Compassion doesn’t only imply trying to be good. When we find ourselves in an aggressive relationship, we need to set clear boundaries. The kindest thing we can do for everyone concerned is to know when to say “enough.” Many people use Buddhist ideals to justify self-debasement. In the name of not shutting our heart we let people walk all over us. It is said that in order not to break our vow of compassion we have to learn when to stop aggression and draw the line. There are times when the only way to bring down barriers is to set boundaries.

~Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You


16 thoughts on “quote du jour ~pema chodron – idiot compassion

  1. A lesson I need to heed right now. Sometimes kindness is mistaken for something else. Definitely time for me to set boundaries before kindness turns to hurt. Than you for sharing this.

      • Certainly describes how I felt when I realized how my assistance to someone in dire need had been misconstrued, or not really that, how it’s been responded to, regardless of the boundaries I tried to establish. Sometimes there may be no right choices that don’t leave a mark.

        • I think Chodron’s use of the word conveys both humor and compassion for us “idiots”…sort of a “Silly rabbit, why would you do that?” tone. I think we have to be compassionate with ourselves when we make mistakes, even (and perhaps especially) when we make those mistakes out of a misguided belief that we are doing the “right thing” by ignoring our own personal boundaries. The hardest work I’ve done and continue to do is to lighten up on myself. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

  2. I think you’re exactly right (your third response). There is that face-palm moment though, when you think, how didn’t I see that (attachment and/or aggression) coming? Still, sometimes there’s no other choice but to walk away before other help arrives, and that would be unconscionable to me. I don’t think that’s necessarily pride or insecurity, but it may be an overabundance of feeling responsible for everything that goes on, something I work at daily at releasing.

  3. Misjudgment, or mis-application of good judgement (poor execution)… Is acting without consideration for self-preservation/protection prideful? You may be right, in some sense. Certainly judgement plays a role. Still, all any of us can do is our best, whatever that is at the time. I’d rather be damned for my actions than for inaction, when it comes to helping someone in trouble. Some would say that makes me a fool. For me, though, we are here to try to help one another thrive as best we can, each as our own talents allow, and to add beauty to the world when we can.

  4. Deborah and Arthur…a lot of thoughts bubble up for me in reading your responses.

    First thought…Deborah’s idea of pride leads me to thoughts of situations in which we get caught up in thinking that we are the only ones who can help the other person—that if we don’t help, the other person won’t get help. Yet who is to say that someone else might be better suited to give the person what he/she needs?

    Second thought…is helping another always helpful? When does helping become enabling? When does helping someone perhaps keep him from learning an important life lesson—or simply learning to stand on his own? We each have out own path, and perhaps the best thing that could happen to that person at that point in time is to be in trouble, and by helping him we are only delaying his growth. As unkind as it seems, the most compassionate thing to in this situation might be to say no.

    It makes me think of the parable of the man who, upon seeing a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon, decided to “help” by cutting a slit to make it easier for the butterfly to get out. It did, but the butterfly died shortly after breaking free of the cocoon, having been deprived of the strength-building that the struggle would have offered.

    Third thought…are we helping the other person because it will make us feel better? I once knew someone who was what I would call a “fixer”…she always rushed in to make things “okay” when other people were in distress, even when it was entirely appropriate for them to be in distress (such as grieving over the loss of a loved one). As I got to know her and watched her in several such situations, it eventually dawned on me that she was trying to make everything right in the other person’s world was so that her own world would return to normal, so that she wouldn’t have to deal with messy, uncomfortable emotions.

    That being said, I of course believe in helping others whenever and in whatever way we can when it’s appropriate—but determining what’s appropriate is definitely a judgment call (or, for me, an intuitive call). Another thing to consider: it might not always be appropriate (or possible) to help out in the exact way the person has asked us to, but we can choose to help in other ways. For example, we might not be able to lend a person money, but perhaps we can connect them with someone who can, or we can simply pray that the person’s financial crisis is resolved and that she is able to remain peaceful and calm in the face of her troubles.

    Anyway, just some thoughts…might make for a good blog post! :)

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