Dancing with Compassion

A man and a woman performing a modern dance.
Compassion is harmonious!

I learned something the other day that I thought I would share with you.  I was working alongside of someone who was noticeably in pain.  She was working through her pain.  She was working hard.  By being in her presence, I knew she was in pain…I saw it in her face; I heard it in her tone; I heard her utterances; I saw her winces; her statements about herself and towards herself were hard, matter-of-fact, and one might say, intolerant. 

I was sad watching her.  It was hard to see her in that much pain.  I was confused by why she was pushing so hard.  I didn’t understand her lack of grace for herself.  So, I did what most people, I think, would do, I invited her to rest.  I interjected empathy.  I offered to do her work.  I recognized the pain.  I thought I was being caring, kind, and with grace – compassionate.  I also noticed that it wasn’t helping.  My offers were denied.  In fact, my offers were making things worse for her…she was working harder, being more independent, and being more demonstrative in the pain. I didn’t care that my offers were being rejected; I was just sad “with” her that she was in so much pain and didn’t care enough for herself to take care of herself. 

I made an observation though – my efforts were “sending her paddling harder (working harder) in an upstream direction instead of encouraging her to flow downstream in freedom.  My compassion wasn’t helping.  So I did an experiment…I changed my direction with my interactions with her.  I affirmed the importance of her pushing through the task in pain, “Wow, it seems like working through the pain and working hard is important to you.”

It was amazing – because what happened is that she stopped forcing herself to suffer…she stopped working, sat down, and changed “the show”.  I don’t say “the show” with judgment because there is no judgment…I would never “throw the first stone” because I realized how often in my life I have done the same thing.

I moved into her in a different way – I changed the dance, in a sense – and in some way it felt like she realized that she didn’t have to dance that way with me.  I think you have the picture.  In a way my “compassion” was really not compassion, it was in a way co-dependence (I hate that term, but it is really what I was doing). I thought I was being nice and helping and really all that I was doing was reinforcing a “funny” dance.  I was playing into the “co” game.  I realized that my compassion came in being in harmony with where she was at versus where I wanted her to be.  Maybe there is something here for you to ponder.


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