Redefining Hard

Recently, I posted about the concept of having a soft, compassionate heart as the basis for our interactions with the world and the people around us. If we can live with and from a place of compassion -from a genuine, open heart, and not from our arrogant egos- things seem to go more smoothly, misunderstandings and bruised egos are fewer, frustration and emotional reactions decrease. Instead of the “I want” mentality, in whatever form it takes (and it can be sneaky!), we now have the groundwork for open, honest communications with each other and with the world around us. But does this mean that we should let our compassion for others supercede our own basic needs and rights? No. Although many of the great spiritual teachers would disagree with me, I do not believe that in order to be compassionate we must become a carpet for others to walk on. In fact, sometimes being the carpet is exactly the wrong thing to do – for yourself, as well as for the other person or people involved in the situation.

But this puts us in what can only be described as a “grey area” for this topic. Where’s the line and how do you determine the balance between the seemingly opposed perspectives? How do you tell when it’s appropriate to be “hard” and assertive (notice I did not say “aggressive”!) and when to be thoroughly compassionate to the point of potential personal injury (or death)? Is the deciding line a matter of your role – as peer, as enabler (to borrow a more modern psychological term), as parent, as friend, as lover, as human, as teacher? Is it ego, hiding out as some idea of self-preservation or justice or greater good (the idea of “sacrificing the few to save the many”)? Is it a matter of a very subjective version of “the right call at the right time”? Do any of these suggestions -these “reasons”- even matter when it comes right down to it? No, not really. What does matter, however, is having the insight -the true insight gained from self-reflection and meditation- to help navigate through these grey areas and to make the right decision.

It’s not always easy making the right choice, though. In fact, many times the right decision is the more difficult one – it’s less convenient, takes more work, bruises our egos, sacrifices our immediate wants in favor of somebody or something other than ourselves. But it’s still the right decision. And no matter what the immediate perceived consequences on the physical plane, it’s still the right path and as such, the one that should be taken.

Sometimes it’s harder to be soft, and sometimes it’s harder to be hard.