Apart from love, I feel that compassion is our greatest gift – to feel for another in their pain or suffering, and to understand how they may feel, while not insulting them that we feel what they feel. And of course they are both major gifts of the heart chakra. But, until our own hearts are healed, it’s easy to confuse compassion with sympathy or pity, both of which set up power gradients with us looking down at the other seemingly from a height and therefore disempowering him or her. And of course it’s so tempting to either dash in and help, or step back because we can’t stand their pain. Becoming a silent witness, is one of the hardest things to do.
A wonderful doctor, Balint, once said that in life we often say, ‘Don’t just stand there. Do something.’ Whereas in psychiatry we often say, ‘Don’t just do something. Stand there.’
Standing there as a witness, holding someone in love and compassion and yet not robbing them of the experience and learning, is loving beyond measure, and made more so because it is so hard to do. There are times, of course, when we simply have to intervene – in the case of physical injury for instance, or perhaps when there is a life threatening situation or one where there is the threat of violence and harm. Our intuition will generally tell us when we must intervene, being sure that it is really for the sake of the other, and for the right reasons, not to salve our conscience, to make us feel useful, to make us popular, to satisfy our ego and prove how clever we are, or to deal with our own pain of discomfort in having to witness another’s pain.
When I was young and inexperienced I would get involved quickly and without much thought, follow my emotions and think that that was the right thing to do. But then I had a situation when someone did that to me, and though I knew that they did so out of love, nevertheless they had cheated me of learning what I could have learned, and I instinctively knew that somehow, some time in the future, I would need to engineer such a situation again so that I would learn to do it myself. And of course I did.
But as always, the divine showed me what I needed to know…
Around that time I was buying myself a dress and it had a long zip at the back. The assistant zipped it up for me. It looked nice and I bought it, but was very sad when I got it home to find that I couldn’t zip it up myself since the long zip simply wasn’t manageable by myself.
A few days later I came across the quotation : The measure of our greatness is in how we stand up after we fall.
And suddenly all of this clicked into place. I needed to do things by myself, and even if I had fallen, and would love to have someone standing by to care for me, I wanted to stand up by myself and feel the greatness of having done so.
Since that time, this issue has become one of the cornerstones of my brand of therapy. I love unconditionally and never-endingly, and I hope that I always love enough to stand back and allow the person to get every bit of learning they can from whatever is happening in their lives. I communicate that I love them and care for them by being there, but not by rescuing them, rather by giving them room to find their way. But I know that I will not let them drown… and I think they know that too. In that willingness to love, be compassionate, the stand by (which I realise is not the same as stepping back) is the art of empowering the other to become the best they can be. It would be my ego and not my heart that would give them advice, try to rescue them or rush in and fix things.
Maybe I’ve wandered off the point here, but maybe not…
I love you all and you’re held in my compassion, but I will let you zip up your own dresses, stand up after you fall, learn all you can from whatever situation you have contracted with the Divine or another soul to experience – and I will rejoice as you find your greatness.
Why not come and visit me at Brenda On-line – just a push of a button away…
See you later. Much love