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Working on my compassionate idiocy.

VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
edited July 2017 in Buddhism Basics

I'm guilty. Specifically....with my Mother. I'm aware that the resentment is setting in, and it showed in my behavior this past week, when she was here visiting me for 10 days. I was miserable and stressed out...and couldn't wait for her to leave. Then...I felt guilty about being happy she was gone. I was nice to her the whole time...catered to things I knew wasn't good for her...all to avoid conflict or what I thought would be useless talking to someone who doesn't want to listen or change...and then chalked it all up to being 'compassionate'. I realized and was aware I was doing it....but couldn't stop it right then. I know I need to shift my thinking and intention and mindfulness on the front end. With that....I'm working/practicing on getting it together and stopping the suffering and frustration that I'm causing myself. Anyway...in case anyone else is suffering with this...these are some of the materials I'm digesting and chewing on...please feel free to share additional readings or practices you may use that help you (and might subsequently) help me.
I started with this:

How not to practice “idiot compassion"

....Ask yourself, “Am I avoiding conflict and calling it compassion? Am I afraid to be honest because I might end up being disliked? Am I letting people off the hook too easily? Am I setting myself up for resentment?” And if any of these is the case, muster your courage, and speak up, even if you make mistakes. The spiritual path is, as I like to say, the fine art of making mistakes.

Compassion is wishing that beings be free from suffering. Idiot compassion is avoiding conflict, letting people walk all over you, not giving people a hard time when actually they need to be given a hard time. It’s “being nice,” or “being good.”

It’s not compassion at all. It ends up causing us pain, and it ends up causing others pain.

The more someone self-consciously thinks of themselves as compassionate, the more likely it is that they’re a compassionate idiot.

Idiot compassion lacks both courage and intelligence.

True compassion does not shy away from causing pain when necessary. Causing pain is not the same as causing harm, by the way. The Buddha talked about this in relation to speech, in an interesting dialogue with a prince named Abhaya.

Another good nugget:

-- Buddhists Don’t Have to Be Nice: Avoiding Idiot Compassion ,



  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Let me just say this:
    Idiot Compassion.
    Wise Compassion.

    I put virtually zero effort into typing those two.

    Doing it? Being able to differentiate, when you're 'in That Moment'...?

    That's Herculean, that is.

    They do say that Hindsight is 20/20 vision.

    We're all expert, wise (after the event) and perfectly capapble of being able to distinguish between the two, once we look back.

    But while we're in it, man, that trick sucks!

    All we can do is two things:
    1 - learn form the experience. Evaluate it, see where we mixed things up, and remember our Actions. What would you critique?

    2 - Decide on future Action - Mental, verbal and physical.

    It's all very well evaluating, discerning and distinguishing now.

    The big question is - what are you going to do next time (always assuming there's gonna BE a next time!)...?

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    Thanks for sharing! I go through some of this with my mother as well, who lives 10 miles away. She tells me to be honest, but when I am she gets upset and angry and makes threats which is really difficult for me. I understand where a lot of her stuff comes from, and how it still impacts her, so sometimes I let stuff go when I shouldn't. I should be letting things calm down and then going back but she is very defensive and we just go in the same circle every few months because her needs are so vastly different from mine/my family. So difficult to navigate. Living so close to family is both a blessing and a curse so often. My entire family (sans a couple of aunts) live within a 45 mile radius of us, and we are pulled every which direction and no matter how honest I am or how I try to be fair as to how we spend our time, someone gets their feelings hurt and I feel like I am always stuck in the middle as to resolving it for everyone involved. I put a lot of work into understanding them so I don't get upset but they don't do the same so I feel like everything is concentrated on going to make things easier for all of them nevermind what we need. So anyhow, I appreciate this :)

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    My grandparents raised me, and after I graduated from college and moved to the D.C. area, my grandmother often wanted to visit. For me, it was hell. Hindsight is always so easy, of course, but looking back what I should have done is set very clear ground rules as a condition of visiting. And I should have made it clear that, just like baseball, 3 strikes and you're out.

    Some might say that doesn't show compassion. Well, there is such a thing as compassion toward yourself, and when you make it clear that there are ground rules, I don't see it as non-compassionate.

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited July 2017

    Going forward...its definitely about setting boundaries. I just need the right mentality to be able to do it. Like @karasti described above...the "understanding" can lead to cycles that go round and round. The understanding somehow my mind links to the compassion concept and so on. I think the trick is going to be working on not using the understanding as a free pass or just going along with things bec I feel "that's just how she is" or " I know why she;s this way".....I need to change the way I'm thinking/viewing the understanding and what it means...as relation to me and me and her...not just to her.

    I've just come to the realization that I need to unravel the way I'm approaching and dealing with her.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    Indeed. I also don't think it helps anyone to keep the whole "I understand why they are that way" to ourselves and just excuse poor behavior that results from it. If they cant make the connect, then perhaps if we can do so skillfully, we should be the ones to point out their cyclical behaviors to them. We can't change them, but they can. Of course, not everyone is open to changing. But if an opportunity presents. My mom is pretty good about listening, the failure comes from me wanting to keep the peace and avoid conflict.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Understanding is one thing. Permitting, is quite another.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Thanks everyone B)

    I am my mother and father. I have internalised their faults and virtues. Fortunately I am also Buddha Bourne ( Jason Borne in my case :3 )

    We really must have compassion for Mother Dukkha and Puppa Doc (or duck in my case). Not easy? Tee Hee ... indeed.

    They do the best they can/could. Us too. Compassion for ourselves? Us idiots forgive and thank ...

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    When it comes to parent and child relationships ...

    It would seem at times the caring and concerned parent may want to change the child's (what they perceive as somewhat troubling) behaviour/lifestyle and the caring and concerned child may want to change the parent's (what 'they' perceive as somewhat troubling) behaviour ...

    At times one's worst fear may come true ... Crikey...I'm becoming like my own mother/father

    I guess in the long run, one can't pick their pair rents... Karma's funny like that...it works in mysterious ways and can at times really test one's compassionate (Buddha) nature :)

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Very thoughtful first post from @Vastmind
    certainly worth our attention if we have paternal issues.

    Some of us have adopted new parents: Buddha, Sangha, Dharma and can expect new children: Joy, Grace, Serenity etc ...

    Our adopted children in turn provide a new being, in effect becoming our parents, from which to further our internal life cycle ...

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited July 2017

    I started a thread with a TED talk that deals with families in the talk and boundaries. And a few other things. But looking here at this thread seems a bit related. But they don't mention 'idiot compassion' so it deals with different material I guess.

    My teacher talks about when something is hard for you to try and identify the core value that matters to you of why this is hard. So if you get jealous with your significant other what is that about?

    So something like this excerpt which is a public domain (name held secret though) 'Buddhism Connect' e-mail teacher student exchange talking about someone's own problem but this excerpt gives the idea of identifying a core value you have for why you are upset in the first place.

    What universal human need it is all about? It might be about connection and wanting to be included and safe. Maybe it is about trust and ease and simplicity...maybe it is about confidence and appreciation – or maybe it is just about love, giving it and receiving it…

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