Compassion or Control? Have you ever compassionately helped someone out of a bind and felt exhausted or depleted? Have you offered advice that wasn’t acted upon and felt angry? Have you given something that wasn’t utilized and felt used? Me, too! And I didn’t like it; not one bit. But it kept happening – over and over – and I had to start to look at the common denominator – me.
As I’ve ambled through my journey of self-discovery, I picked up a copy of Iyanla Vanzant’s “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up” (at my friend’s gentle encouragement), and boy, did she hit me with some zingers! When I got to the topic of compassion – which, I thought – by my continuous out-pouring of ‘help’ – I would glide through – I was stopped in my tracks. It hit me like a ton of bricks – and I didn’t like that either, but the Truth was so loud that I could no longer ignore it.
Compassion, she says, is not helping others get out of their messes, but supporting them through their messes until they come out the other side. Helping someone do something they should be doing for themselves is not compassion, but a quest for power and control. Power??? Control??? Me??? Ummmmmm…yes. That was my (sad) Truth. Man, that Iyanla tells it straight!
But the more I read it, again and again, it started to make sense. If I was really acting with compassion, I would not be carrying their load and the responsibility for the fixing. Compassion doesn’t feel like that. Control sure does. She goes on to say that compassionate people do not take other’s power away. And isn’t that what I’m doing when I’m making the calls for you? Scheduling appointments for you? Paying the bills for you? Shoving my (unsolicited) solutions down your throat? Yep. I’ve taken on the role that believes ‘I know best and can do it better, and you should – and will – be grateful’ (which usually doesn’t happen).
“A compassionate person wants you, as a universal being, to realize your wholeness. Your wholeness has nothing to do with being nice, and a compassionate person recognizes that your journey to wholeness may not look nice. Compassionate people have the ability to nurture, comfort, and provide nourishment to others at various stages. They heal without making themselves sick”
Since I’ve been practicing the art (and it is an art because it takes lots & lots of practice) of compassion, I find myself more at ease; more able to discern where I end and you begin. I’m able to be truly compassionate and demonstrate empathy, and sometimes sympathy, while supporting others through their crises’. It allows me to be more loving and kind, and it allows them to stand on their own two feet and solve their own problems. In other words, I’m supporting them while they find their own power. And that’s something we can both feel good about!
Here are some tips I’ve used to help me discern between compassion and control:
- Is this something they can/should be doing on their own?
- If I do this, will it deplete or exhaust me in any of the following ways? Energy? Money? Time? Peace of mind?
- If they don’t/won’t accept my help, can I be at peace about it?
- What’s the worst that can happen if they do it on their own, even if they fail?
- Can I let others fall down and learn their own lessons, or do I insist they avoid that pain at all cost and just let me handle it?
I think you get the gist. If letting people manage their own lives causes me any distress at all, it’s time for me to retreat. There’s a reason that the airlines suggest we put on our own masks before helping others with theirs.
Laura M Turley, LMT – After working over 30 years in various corporate roles, then managing the many challenges of middle age, Laura finds that she’s uniquely qualified to relate to – and address – the myriad issues facing individuals in this age group. Certain aches and pains that accompany growing older (and wiser!) are quite common but equally as significant are the increasing side effects of our habitual patterns, life stresses and the fact that we make little-to-no time for ourselves. Massage allows her to bridge the gap between your daily pressures & pains of life to a more healthful, pain-free existence – and it feels good, too! Laura’s clients say that her knowledge – coupled with her compassionate approach – is what keeps them coming back.