terry lige butterfly cocoon

Compassion For Myself and Others – Part 2

I have compassion for myself and others.  I remember that we are all wounded.

This is leadership commitment number six. It is another commitment that I divided into two parts. In my first article I discussed what compassion for self looks like and in this article I will focus on what compassion for others looks like. Compassion in both cases is motivated by remembering that we all are wounded.

A simple definition for compassion is, a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

I think we can all identify with this definition and have all experienced compassion. I think we would all agree that it is a positive, meaningful emotion; however, it is important to be aware of what motivates our compassion. Sometimes, my compassion is very much driven by a desire to help others because it is an expression of my spiritual gift of compassion. At other times, my compassion can be driven by an ulterior or hidden motive that I may not even be aware of in the moment. That motivation is attached to my need to be needed. Helping others can be a powerful way to stroke my personal sense of value, so much so, that I can build my sense of identity around helping others.

The problem with need driven compassion is that eventually I want to receive back whatever it is that I have given. This kind of giving is conditional and I know it is unhealthy when resentment and bitterness begins to build and manifests itself in negativity, complaining and attention seeking behavior that asks the question internally, “when is it my turn?”

Caregiving vs. Caretaking

I call healthy compassion caregiving and unhealthy compassion as caretaking. Here is what differentiates them.


Caretaking focuses on my need to be needed. It is built around the belief that people are incapable of completing a task or taking care of themselves without my help. I do not consider them as able. When I am caretaking, I am imposing my assistance and my solutions on others. I will take over responsibility, which feeds my need to control situations and people.


Caregiving is all about the gift of compassion I have for others. When I am compassionate in this way, I do not impose my assistance or answers on others. Usually I am responding to a cry for help. Caregiving is built around the belief that people are able to find their own answers; I am only here to support and encourage. Instead of taking responsibility, I want to teach and model personal responsibility. This models respect for others and for me.

When I think about caregiving, I am reminded of the story of the cocoon. A butterfly must push and struggle its way out of the cocoon to pump enough blood and energy throughout the veins of its wings so that it will be strong enough to fly. Without the struggle, the butterfly’s wings dry up and wither and it cannot fly.

Sometimes the most loving thing I can do is allow someone to struggle. I can show kindness and support without interfering in their personal growth.

Would you rather be a caretaker or caregiver? It is a choice.


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