Noticing the Pitiful Self-Thinking

“I remember days when I longed for someone to rescue me from my problems.  The waves of doubt and panic would flow over me and I was terribly afraid I would be washed away.”

Each of us has thought those words at some point in our lives.  We felt helpless and looked for someone to save us.  If only someone were caring enough to help, our problems would disappear – or at least that is what we thought.

Sometimes the destructive waves are not as threatening as what we think. The life-threatening storm is actually only a passing turbulence.  The external obstacle is not the defining point in our life but instead a temporary trial.  The critical problem is not what is going on outside but inside our thinking.

Buddha noted several centuries ago, “We are what we think.” 

Applying his teaching, we find that:

  • If we think we are in trouble, we are. 
  • If we think we can make it, we can. 
  • If we think we are a failure, we are. 
  • If we think we can make it and be a success, we can.
  • If we believe our problems are unavoidable and fatal, they are and we are without hope, unless we can get someone else to save us.
  • If, however, we believe our problems are temporary and survivable, we do what we can and appreciate any help we receive.  Our ultimate success, then, is our own decision to think in a certain way.  It is an internal not an external process. 

Budda added, “All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”

Compassion is coming alongside another in their pain for the purpose of helping them resolve their problems.  Compassion is caring enough to help another make their lives better.  Many have mistaken compassion for pity, which implies a pathetic, almost hopeless attitude toward the other.  Pity is a handout because we don’t think the person can help themselves.  Pity implies “you poor thing” where compassion focuses on the correct action.  Pity is often seen as demeaning toward the person, looking down to their position and feeling good about helping them.    Compassion has no inequality of status, instead seeing the other as valuable and in an uplifting, hopeful gesture, helping the other over a momentary setback.

We don’t want or need another’s pity.  We do want their empathy, a genuine caring because they understand our legitimate situation.  Yet, too many times we mistake pity and compassion one for another.  We pity ourselves, disabling our actions by flawed thinking.  Yes, we are frustrated and angry about our situation but we demean ourselves as we grieve the loss of finances, physical ability or social connection.  The problem is that when we are filled with self-pity, we are imprisoned by our own flawed thinking.  We beg in prayer, action or words for someone to pull us from the muck and mire of life, all the while having the potential to free ourselves.  Worse yet, we stand in the stench, crying for help when we simply need to look for the solid ground, lift one foot and move forward.  If we think we can do it, we can.  If we don’t think we can do it, well, we can’t.

So how does all this fit with compassion?  Aren’t we supposed to help those stuck in the mud of life?

Yes, compassion is helping another resolve the right problem.  Too often we don’t take the time to notice the signals of the deeper problem.  The initial question may be, “What can I do to help?”  The deeper question that is, “Will my actions solve the core problem?”

Unfortunately, too many times we want to do for others what they refuse to do for themselves.  Allowing them to continue is fostering that pain, continually cheating them out of the growth they need.  For those stuck in self-pity, for those who don’t believe they can take the steps, we need to help them transform their thinking before giving more material goods.  Therefore, we must transform our thinking to transform their thinking.  Otherwise, we are co-creators in their continued misery.

This doesn’t give us the excuse to avoid those in need but instead is a call to look beyond the immediate problem to the deeper issue.  As business leaders determined to unleash the ultimate performance, production and profit, we need everyone operating at their peak.  That require that we notice the real issue and work to solve the critical problem.  Compassion cares enough to solve the difficult problem that makes the right changes to seize the ultimate opportunity.

Do you care enough to help another transform their thinking?

Transform Your Thinking

Care Enough to Transform Their Thinking

Then You Will Help them Seize their Opportunities to Unleash The Ultimate

Loren Murfield, Ph.D.

The Opportunity Professor
Co-Author of “The R.O.I. of Compassion”

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