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Compassion and Assertiveness
I read something interesting recently. To quote, it said, “Compassion is understanding, it does not include sacrifice. Compassion is not martyrdom, it is not sacrifice, it is pure mastery, even of the emotions of pity.”
This ties closely in with a discussion I was having with my life partner recently about Aikido, its teachings and philosophy, assertiveness and reconciling the taking of a life. In Aikido, as it has been explained to me, the objective is to return harmony and balance to a conflictive situation. But, not necessarily having your will bent in order to to it. The key is to be assertive. Aikido teaches about compassion… about being compassionate and caring of your “adversary,” while standing your ground.
I have often sat through my partner’s discussions with other Aikidoka about the taking of life within the art. As a matter of fact, it is one of the questions that my partner asks of any of his Aikido students each time they test for a higher rank… A sort of measure perhaps of their increasingly deeper understanding of the philosophical aspects of the art.
At best, I’d heard it argued that if it is more compassionate , or even utilitarian (i.e. killing a serial child murderer or a corrupt, blood hungry dictator), to take a life, it is in harmony with the teachings of the art. At worst, there have been many blanks looks and a lot of confusion…
For me, assertiveness has varying degrees. I can be quietly assertive when faced with quiet contention, but if my adversary’s argument is that I should die, then I know that I have to take my assertiveness to a new level, one of us will likely go home in a body bag – and as mush as I can help it, it won’t be me… I think that is assertive.
I also think it is compassionate. I don’t have to agree with my adversary, hence the term adversary, in order to be compassionate. I do not have to sacrifice of myself or become a martyr in order to show compassion to my aggressor. I can show compassion to us both by standing by my side of the argument – by exposing the two of us to another view point, and allowing each of us the opportunity to learn from the other.
Even in the confrontation, I can still be compassionate and maintain what ever degree of assertiveness is necessary. I can also, remain open to seeing that my point of view may not be the best one – and be compassionate in that way – but still not allow the knife in my opponent’s hand, or the words on his lips, to pierce my skin.
Compassion and assertiveness go hand in hand… In being compassionate with myself, I must be assertive while on my path, about my thoughts and views, and needs and desires. Caving in to the will and whim of everyone around me is detrimental to us all… because I deny them and myself of the possibility of learning, of being exposed to new things, and views, and lessons. That is not compassionate.
This can then extend outward to everyone and everything around us… moving us forward… Extending… Growing… Universally… into a state of greater tolerance and understanding. If I can be open to someone’s opinion, even when that opinion is that I should die, I am expressing compassion and tolerance and a deep understanding and love for that person’s right to have their opinion. By remaining assertive in my own view of the discussion, I am exposing my “opponent” to new views, with viable and important lessons, and so expressing compassion for that person. In doing so, however, I can also show myself compassion by not allowing myself to carry a cross that is not mine.
"When you bow deeply to the universe, it bows back; when you call out the name of God, it echoes inside you."