More PsychNotes: Happiness and Well-being
Compassion, Not Pity
by Monica A. Frank, PhD
I never pity anyone because I believe everyone is capable of great strength.
As a psychologist it is my job to help people find that strength. It is not my job to protect them from life's adversities. If I feel sorry for my clients it implies that I don't believe they are capable which only affirms their fear.
As a parent it is my duty to help my child find that strength. If I overprotect my child and don't allow him to navigate the rough waters of life, I essentially don't allow him to find the strength and capability within himself.
As a human being it is my responsibility to help others find their strength. It is not my responsibility to take care of others but to assist them in discovering their ability to care for themselves to the degree they are capable.
It is compassion that helps me fulfill these obligations. But compassion is harder than pity. It requires the ability to tolerate discomfort. It requires strength to not only know what is changeable but to accept when it is not.
Compassion allows me to support but not take control because I care not only about the present but also about the future. It allows me to teach instead of solving.
Compassion allows me to listen and console but not commiserate in the futility of the situation. I know a person needs to be fully heard before they can move forward.
Compassion allows me to understand and feel the depth of others' despair without accepting the hopelessness. When people feel understood, they can begin to look at possibilities.
Compassion allows me to be an agent of change.
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