Compassion Is Not Weakness

Photo by drp

Something startling happened in a couple of new relationships that were shaping up to be quite beautiful.  I didn’t understand and for several days, I’ve asked for understanding.  There were echoes of similiar relationships that ended suddenly, without an explanation at the time or an explanation that came later that I didn’t understand.  Until now.

While reading the blog of a colleague I admire, I came across his explanation of how he’d learned the hard way:  his compassion and kindness were often mistaken for weakness.

That hit me in a stronger way that I can ever describe.  I’m by nature a very compassionate person. It doesn’t mean I’m here to take crap, thank you, but when someone’s hurting, especially emotionally, my nurturing and mothering nature takes hold.  I’ve never perceived this as weakness.  After all, even the Dark Mother who has a raging, warrioress side to Her also has a compassionate, nurturing side that will hold you in Her arms in your darkest moments.

But here’s what I discovered in this one shining moment of clarity.  While I’ve not perceived compassion as weakness, many people do.

In new relationships where I am perceived as tremendously strong, for the other person to see me make that switch to very kind and compassionate, it’s sometimes beyond their understanding.  They LIKE the Tough Lorna. It seems incongruous that I can be both commanding and compassionate, and while not necessarily in the same breath, it doesn’t take long to switch between the two.  For a man who’s searching for a commanding woman, it’s confusing.  I now understand what a rather submissive man told me about thinking I was always commanding and being surprised that I had this “weaker” side.  He wanted a woman who would treat him like crap all the time, even when he was already emotionally devastated.  I could have done that for him, yes, but it wouldn’t have been true to myself, and for me, that would have been the weakness rather than showing him kindness when he lost his job.

The other thing I saw in this epiphany is something I’ve seen glimmers of before.  People who often see the compassionate and kind side of my nature and don’t know the commanding side think I’m a wimp.   When I let the tiger out, they’re usually surprised–either telling me how terrible I am for not being the person they thought they could beat on or they’re off licking their wounds after pushing me too far.

I think I have tended during most of my life to let others see the compassionate and kind side of me first. That’s how I was raised.   In recent years, I’ve been more inclined to show the commanding side and let the compassionate side emerge when needed.   It’s unfortunate when people don’t see the fully integrated package.  It doesn’t matter which side of me they see and get accustomed to first because once they see the other side of me, the relationship is forever changed.