Compassion Is a Gift, Not an Obligation


I truly believe the world would be a better place if we were all showed a little more compassion towards each other. What does not make the world a better place, though, is treating compassion as an entitlement.

Compassion is a gift, and entitlement poisons what compassion is about.

I get it; when we’ve been harbouring pain, fear and shame for a long time, compassion and empathy are like an oasis in the desert. It’s a relief, it unlocks something deep inside us, and it leaves us hungry for more.The issues come when we take that hunger outside. And that hunger shifts from a searching to an expectation, like:People should be compassionate to me because of how I’m feeling and/or what I’ve experienced.No. People “should” not do anything. Compassion is a gift that, when given generously and freely, is an amazing and beautiful experience. It’s something we can choose to give ourselves.But it’s not something we’re entitled to an endless supply of, regardless of how we show up or behave.

Compassion and empathy are earned, not owed.

[Tweet "Compassion is earned, not owed."]I’m sure you can think of certain people in your life who have built up enough compassion credit that you’d take their phone calls at 3am. I’m sure you can also think of people who have drained those credits to the dregs through poor behaviour and lack of reciprocity.And this is where the spiritual conversation around compassion and empathy becomes problematic. Because desiring compassion—that’s human. Having the expectation that other people will give us special treatment regardless of how we show up—that’s entitlement.It’s not someone else’s responsibility to tiptoe around our emotional challenges. It’s also not their responsibility to care for our emotional wounds for us.Consciously or unconsciously, with every interaction, we are all making the choice to build our compassion credit or empty it out.  If we take from someone without reciprocating, they don’t have an obligation to keep giving.The same applies the other way around.We are the keepers of our own compassion accounts. If someone drains their account dry, we aren't obligated to keep offering them credit.You and you alone are responsible for the energy you bring and the way you interact with the world. And other people are responsible for theirs.In the words of Nathaniel Branden, “No one is coming to save you.” And that’s a good thing, because you don’t need saving.You’ve got this, just as you are.