Tough Compassion

It’s thought that compassion is always soft and gentle, but that’s a considerable mistake.

Compassion may require perceptiveness, and perceptiveness may reveal that your interlocutor is deluded about something specific. To be soft and gentle, in such a case, may allow this person to maintain this delusion and therefore to be that much further from discovering his or her true nature.

For this reason, compassion must thread the needle and, in some cases therefore, must be tough. One must, as it were, see through the delusion and speak to that in the other yearns to be free. I say that this may mean threading the needle because “tough compassion” surely does not suggest being mean, critical, or aggressive.

Instead, compassion, aided by perceptiveness and buoyed by courage, must be quietly patient. It must seek this way, then that way, then another of speaking straight to the other’s heart. The heart, the other’s wholeness, can thereby be penetrated and “met” by the speaker’s words.

Will the other hear and feel the full weight of these penetrative words? It all depends. The interlocutor may resist, double back to the old stories, feel pain bodies (Eckhart Tolle) activated. But is that the point? No, the point, touching the heart, may plant a seedling there that, in time, could grow and grow until it becomes unbearable to deny or unhear. Spiritual teaching can be like that.

It takes so much for one to maintain one’s delusions. And yet, it only takes a single breach, a concerted “shock” (Gurdjieff) to expose the delusion as delusion. Tough compassion, here the vehicle of truth, may also be called love: love of what the other cannot yet see or feel but may, in the morning light of tomorrow, be disclosed.