Thursday, July 1, 2010

Compassionate to a Fault

My mind has lately been filled with conflict between my inner-desire to survive, and my outer-behavior of compassion, empathy and understanding.

Basically, am I being too nice?

And not just nice, but amiable. Courteous. Pleasant. Easy-going. Convivial. Gracious. Kind. And other synonyms from a thesaurus.

These thoughts began in various conversations I've had with my girlfriend. Always practical -- and critical (yet ina skeptical sort of way, not a mean sort of way) -- she often openly questions my interactions with other people, particularly those close-ish to me. And some of the implications she raises aren't exactly things easily swept away with a metaphorical broom...

Whether it has to do with random strangers in trouble, co-workers slacking on the job, housemates having trouble paying bills -- on time or at all -- and even friends making bad choices that have had serious consequences, my behavior is often supportive, sympathetic, dare I say, even enabling. I let people get away with the trouble they cause.

Why? Well, partially because I wish there had been someone like that for me when I was/am/are having Problems with Life, but mostly because I have always felt that when someone is beaten down hard they don't need castigation to get back up. If someone fucks up, how would telling them they're a fuckup get them motivated to help themselves? For me, I've always felt that giving people a friendly shoulder would give them the support they need to do for themselves what they couldn't before.

Maybe I've been wrong? Recently many things have happened which echo times in the past when I questioned my own self-proclaimed "compassion". I can't help but get the feeling that I'm either being a really amazing person -- or being used. Hard. Like a tube-sock.

Do I not push back enough? Am I too easy with others? Could I be more critical, rather than nice? Would it help the people I meet to make them reach their own standards, and if they can't then I should judge them? I mean, we all judge each other to some degree, but have I been lax at it? Should I start grading more like an East German Olympic judge?

Because I'm getting tired ya'll. I can feel it. I can feel my spirit sagging these past few weeks -- and not just because I haven't seen my girlfriend for a while, or the stressful hours at the job, or even my own jumping around to make it through Life's various hoops.

No, it's because so many people seem to take from me, in small ways, subtle ways, but take nonetheless. My time, my patience, my food, my single-dollar bills, my turns at not doing chores, my ibuprofen, my car, my hospitality, my understanding, my musical instruments, my second-chances, third-chances, fourth-chances, my books, my printer-ink, my DVDs, my house-finding skills, my pet-watching abilities, my bedroom mirrors, my sales, my goddamn sore shoulder. People take myself for granted.

And to think there was a time when I had so much to give, so much to share with... well, everyone. Anyone. Now I feel drained more often than not. My vaunted "compassion" is too little for random people these days. (And besides, I save the best of myself for my darling lover.) My tolerance, my cooperation, even my politeness -- which is something that even in the midst of raging frustration I manage to pull-off, such was the severity of my instruction as a child -- has begun to fade off like old paint that's seen one too many sun-rises.

What I want now is to no longer feel taken advantage of by others. I don't like feeling done wrong by people I show compassion to. But I also rarely have the energy to fight off such seemingly insignificant habits that encompass the sort of behavior I find. It's like being a whale and trying to shake-off a bunch of random piranhas. (Though that scenario couldn't happen really, since whales live in saltwater and piranhas live in freshwater, so maybe more like this:)

The most difficult part is that I'd have to swiftly and decisively change my behavior in ways that would make things uncomfortable for myself, and other people that I do care about...

So what's a Saboteur Academic to do? Should I keep being so understanding and hope for the best? Or should I make a clean break of it and start calling people out like my girlfriend does? I really have no idea.

But I do wonder if my behavior has gathered around me scrubs instead of champs? Because otherwise this dilemma wouldn't even exist.

So it goes.


3 footnotes:

Erin said...

After having a series of dreams the past week and a half where the common theme is nothing short of my own compassion killing me, I have gone on a bit of a search to find a remedy. This post, though written several years ago is nothing short of what I have been trying to communicate but I also feel I have been apparently doing it ever so poorly. I have read your words and they have reinforced my need for self preservation. Although it is a rather strange and unsatisfying place to be, it is where I am and you have defined it ever so clearly.

Zek J. Evets said...


Thanks =)

Erin said...

After a series of dreams the past several weeks which has a rolling theme of "my compassion is killing me," I have begun to hunt for an answer to this dilemma. So early in my desire for explanation and understanding our words describe my familiar and uncomfortable position in a manner in which I have been unable or have done poorly. As I continue on this path of preserving oneself, it is rather comforting reading a profound understanding of my own discomfort and the need to initiate positive change.