What is Ruthless Compassion?

Ruthless Compassion is a philosophy which brings together two seemingly-contradictory concepts. It combines the loving-kindness of compassion with the fierceness of the warrior, and this is exactly why it works.

Many of us today misunderstand compassion as an attitude of “niceness,” where we feel obliged to take care of others at our own expense, tolerate disrespect and even collude with the other person’s bad behavior. We believe that we can’t be “mean” or “rude” to others, even if this means abandoning our own needs and feelings. We forgive the unforgivable and believe that all of this is being a good person.

In reality, true compassion has nothing to do with being nice and everything to do with doing the right thing for ourselves and others. It’s about being loving but empowered, as opposed to tolerant and forgiving, and this is where the ruthlessness comes in.

The philosophy I propose makes it possible for us to care for ourselves while also caring about others. It’s about not enabling someone to get away with their hurtful or disrespectful behavior but rather, allowing them to experience the consequences of their choices and in this way, have an opportunity to learn. This is far kinder than allowing them to continuously repeat their mistakes.

Rather than us believing that it’s “mean” to be assertive, this philosophy encourages us to do so, because the best way to learn about the people in our lives is to observe their reactions to our expressing our needs and feelings.

Ruthless Compassion supports us in developing self-love and self-confidence and in not protecting others from the natural consequences of their choices. For example, if we clean up our alcoholic spouse and tuck them into bed every time they binge, they’ll never learn that their drinking has consequences, or be motivated to change.

Our misunderstanding of compassion benefits no-one, while Ruthless Compassion is ultimately far more loving, even when the other person is unhappy with the consequences they’re facing. In reality, it’s misguided niceness that promotes cruelty, while a philosophy of loving empowerment decreases it.

We mistakenly believe that forgiveness is essential in life but I think that this is not always possible or necessary. What is necessary is the ability to let go. When someone has harmed or betrayed us their actions may not be forgivable, but we can release our anger and pain after we’ve acknowledged the validity of our experience. Forcing ourselves to forgive when we can’t (and shouldn’t) only causes us further pain.

If the other person apologizes, makes amends and promises to do better we could choose to forgive, but it’s not essential. It might be that our not forgiving them is just what they need to motivate them to truly change. As long as we’re not carrying bitterness, resentment or vengefulness in our hearts, we don’t need to forgive them for their sake or for our own.

Ruthless Compassion is about taking a position of strength in our lives. It’s saying “No more!” to exploitation, disrespect and cruelty. To practice it means to feel safer in the world, and with this sense of security it’s much easier to be happy and peaceful, knowing that we’ll handle whatever comes along.

(C) Marcia Sirota MD 2010

Source by Marcia Sirota

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