There's a lot of messaging going around that we should give more. More of our time, more of our energy, more of our attention, more of ourselves. This can be appropriate and balancing for some but dangerous for those who have been conditioned to overgive without concern for their own needs and wellbeing.

True compassion is a mutually nourishing quality, and it includes consideration for oneself. Otherwise it becomes mutually harmful no matter how good either party feels in the moment of giving. Compassion then becomes a pretty word obscuring ugly behaviours which only serve to enhance certain identities. The saviour and the victim, the strong and the helpless, the smart and the stupid, the stable and the needy. Two sides of a single coin, representing two wounded beings caught in an ancient dance.

To live with compassion is to live intelligently. It represents the union of feeling and imagination into appropriate action, and it has to be balanced. We must include ourselves in the equation, otherwise the results will be neurotic. We'll project our own neediness upon the world and increase suffering for all parties involved, whether it takes the form of resentment, deprivation, codependency, learned helplessness or any number of side-effects that tend to accompany our good intentions.

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