Where does compassion spring from? Many people believe that compassion is a positive feeling, and count their pitifulness to be a good quality. They cultivate their tendency to feel pity, not realizing that they are doing harm to themselves and others.
Pitifulness is a derivative of self-pity. We feel pity for other people because we are afraid that the same could happen to us.
The tendency to self-pity originates from our early childhood. The child is crying – and its parents are comforting it. Growing up, we learn to resort to the same methods to get care and attention – we feel sorry for ourselves, trying to move the others to pity.
If you believe in a person, you will try to strengthen his/her belief in him/herself: “You are strong! You can handle it!” But if you pity the person, you take away his/her strength, labeling the person as weak.
No, it is not necessary to become insensitive and indifferent. You just have to understand that there is a difference between compassion and pity. Be compassionate, help those in need, but do not succumb to pity.
How to escape from the trap of pitifulness?
1. Do not become a “shoulder to cry on” for everybody. You do not need to spend hours listening to endless complaints. You are not a psychological help service. Your time and energy is a resource that should be spent wisely. Set a time limit for yourself: 1 hour a day you may help other people with their troubles, period.
2. Give people confidence. Just ask the complaining person: What exactly can I help you with? In this way you show that you care and are ready to give a real, effective assistance. You do something good for the for the person then – you strengthen his/her confidence.
The same applies to self-pity. A person, pitying him/herself, stays a helpless child all his/her life. Instead, evaluate the situation sensibly and take responsibility for making the decision. In the end, it is only in your power to do changes in your life!