Why Compassion is a Form of Strength

If someone attacks me, I will protect myself.  I may even have to wrestle them to the ground to do so.  But once I’ve done that, I will not attack the other person.  I do not want to punish my attacker.  (Well, I may want to punish them — but I’ll try to inhibit that response.) At this point, love and compassion is what is needed.  Compassion is what will disarm my nemesis.  And that’s what’s needed to solve problems between people.

Perhaps the most difficult part of trying to resolve a conflict is being able to approach the other person with compassion.  This is because in a conflict, our needs are being threatened!  I am in self-protection mode!  How can I be compassionate toward someone who is threatening my interests?

In such situations, we tend to think that we have to be strong.  When we feel threatened, we must muster all of our might to defend ourselves.  This tends to mean having the strength to attack the other person.

Yes, in a conflict, we must be strong.  But we do not need our strength for purposes of attacking our opponent.

Instead, we need to use our strength to engage the other while simultaneously protecting ourselves.

Why does this require strength?  Because to begin the process of engaging another person effectively, we need to do three things.

1.  Calm down. It is not possible to resovle a conflict in anger. Anger involves blame.  Blame causes us to lash out.  Lashing out causes defensiveness.  Defensiveness escalates on both sides.

So, the first order of business is finding a way to be calm.  Breathe.  Take some time if you need to.  Find a way to take care of your anger before you approach the other person. This may take anywhere from seconds to minutes to hours or days – even longer.

Calming down takes strength.

2. Temporarily “bracket” your needs. To engage another person, it is important to make the other person feel safe and heard. The worst way to do this is to attack the other person! And so, it is often necessary to “bracket” your own needs. That is, if you can, put your unmet needs in “brackets” for now – just long enough so that you can allow the other person to express their needs.  When you do this, you show the other person you care.  They feel heard – and so they are more likely to be willing to hear you.

Bracketing your needs takes strength.

3. Protect yourself from being attacked. Don’t attack your opponent in anger. But not attacking doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be attacked!  In a conflict, your opponent will often attack you. They may blame you, call you names, make demands.  None of this feels good.  And so it takes energy and resolve to refuse to allow yourself to be affected by the other person’s anger.  To protect yourself, try to see the other person’s anger as what Marshall Rosenberg calls a “tragic expression of an unmet need”.  When you do this, you will be more able to rise above your opponent’s vitriol.  And if you can’t do that, you can always simply leave the conversation to give the other person a chance to calm down.

Protecting yourself without attacking requires strength.

4. Act out of love and compassion. This requires the most strength of all. In a conflict, try to act out of love and compassion. That is, instead of attacking your opponent, try to understand why they feel as they do. Try to empathize with their feelings and needs – even if you don’t agree with the other person.  When you do this, the other will feel heard.  And when this happens, the other person will feel relieved, grateful, and even become more compassionate toward you.  It is at this point that genuine problem solving can begin.

The real place where we need strength is to understand that one can protect oneself from attack while simultaneously acting out of love and compassion.  To act with compassion is not to appease the other.  It is not to give in or give up.  It is not to tolerate abuse.

And so we end as we began:

If someone attacks me, I will protect myself.  I may even have to wrestle them to the ground to do so.  But once I’ve done that, I will not attack the other person.  I do not want to punish the other person.  At this point, love and compassion is what can disarm the other the most.  And that’s what’s needed to solve problems between people.

Read Similar Posts

Giving is a Form of Creating Common Ground

If you like what we are doing, please support us in any way that you can.

Join Our Community of Caring People

Fill The Form To Join The Community