Compassion

Just lately I’ve had cause to reflect on the words I use and the messages they convey.


Over recent years I’ve tried hard to encourage a compassionate approach to life challenges, as an antidote to the narrow focus on materialistic outcomes and quick wins which so often characterises our existence.


I had been working with a group of managers for some time and my message had very much been focused on the contrast between a principled, value-based approach and the performance driven and ‘managerial’ approach of many organisations. I thought I had been clear about the need to find a compassionate way to achieve objectives, but a recent conversation suggested that I might have given a confusing message.


One member of the group said that the academic approach often envisages an ideal world and that she had been feeling’ managerial’ in her day job, because she had to address some complex and serious issues with a colleague. When we talked about what she was facing, it was clear that she could not ignore these issues, which may pose a risk to vulnerable people, but our conversations in class had led her to feel that having to challenge the colleague and address serious shortcomings might be frowned upon as ‘managerial’ and less than compassionate.


After the session I gave some serious thought as to how to clarify my position. It occurred to me that I may have been giving an incomplete message, as though simply using the concept of compassion could create a perfect situation and prevent problems from occurring, which was never my intention.


I was reminded of the message in a book I read recently: ‘compassion without wisdom is sentimental, wisdom without compassion is harsh’. From this statement I formulated the idea that wisdom and compassion form a whole which develops insight; you will see these words at the head of my website home page.


I guess that the lesson for me from this is the same as that of my previous blog: life will always present us with challenges as well as joys; our task is to find a wise, insightful and compassionate way to deal with them.


Here’s a symbol I call ’Kath’s triangle’ which helps me to visualize these concepts:


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