Idiot Compassion…and True Service.

Via on Nov 19, 2009

heart photoDo you give to get? Is there any way around this notion? How can you be genuinely  “of service” without an agenda? Is it possible? I believe so and have blogged about it on my men’s personal development site. Below is an excerpt.

In my last post we explored the concept of selfishness as it pertains to personal growth. To take the conversation a step further, we have to talk about service. Why? Because if you really want to talk about not being selfish, then a conversation about being self-less needs to happen.

But what is selflessness? What does that really mean? And how do I know when I am being selfish versus selfless?

I’m here to assert that by being “selfish” you can be genuinely selfless.

Selflessness, or serving and helping others, is one of the core pillars of being a revolutionary man. To live is to serve. If you want to be the kind of man leaves his mark, consider making service a central part of who you are and how you spend your time.

Conventional Service & Service Materialism

How is it that service is so often taught as “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours?” In our modern, western culture, service seems to be fairly conditional. I’ll help you, but I expect something in return. I’ll give you my $20 million, but I want the stadium named after me.

Not only that, but service in many circles overtly excludes and discriminates against people. WTF?

For example, some religions teach that if you serve “correctly” and according to God’s will, going to heaven one day will be your reward. So rather than serve because it genuinely comes through me, I serve so that I can get the carrot– heaven.

Some groups will even teach their followers to only help certain groups of people while discriminating against others (people of color, gays, women). Hmmm. Seems fishy to me.

These examples are what I call service materialism—serving in hopes of material reward and discrimination cloaked in the name of service. Essentially, service materialism is when you use service as a way to confirm yourself or get what you want for your own benefit.

Idiot Compassion

Another term for this kind of behavior is “idiot compassion.” In a conventional sense, acting selfless gives you accolades and confirmation from friends, coworkers and colleagues. But remember, acting selfless doesn’t mean that you are selfless. Tibetan Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called acting nice and kind “idiot compassion.”

Rinpoche defined Idiot compassion as “a slimy way of trying to fulfill your desire secretly.” Or as the karmayogini journal states, “It is when you give people what they want as opposed to what they need, all in the name of being nice and compassionate [so that you can feel better yourself].”

Idiot compassion then, has serious strings attached and is all about the givers own neurotic needs and desires.

However, for some of us, idiot compassion is the doorway to true compassion. I remember in my college fraternity we would do a philanthropy just to get the University, neighbors, and national office off our backs. But once we actually got in there and rolled up our sleeves with the elementary school kids, my heart would melt and I would have a blast genuinely serving the kids.

Genuine Service & True Compassion

Genuine service on the other hand, comes from your heart and there is no need to get anything in return, such as tithing, a trophy with your name on it, a back rub, or even a thank you. However…read the rest here.

About Jayson Gaddis

Jayson Gaddis, is a relationship specialist using the vehicle of his marriage and kids to wake up and live an empowered life. He’s on the planet to help people learn and master intimacy and relationship. He’s a husband and part-time stay-at-home Dad getting schooled by his two cosmic kids. Jayson is the host of Empowering Relationships TV and writes his own highly personal blog, and has also written for Integral Life, The Jungle of Life, Primer Magazine, Recovering Yogi, The Good Men Project. You can find him here: Jayson Gaddis or Fulfilling Marriage.

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7 Responses to “Idiot Compassion…and True Service.”

  1. jenny mac says:

    beautifully stated! and very poignant…….I just had this conversation with my Lama this afternoon!! thank you

  2. LindaSama says:

    I always thought idiot compassion was helping someone who maybe does not really deserve help but they take and take and take….mostly advantage of you. i.e., compassion without discernment. I have in mind a friend who lost about $30,000 to a woman who basically scammed him…she told him a story that she had cancer, was dying, blah blah blah, when she really wasn't.

  3. JayGaddis says:

    Linda. It is definitely that too. Trungpa Rinpoche said that sometimes the most compassionate thing we can do is say no. So, you're right on.
    J

  4. Tufan{i} says:

    Discernment is important I agree. Especially discernment that will correctly identify the quality of compassion we notice in other people. Otherwise this "idiot compassion" trend becomes yet another form of propaganda that encourages people to exercise unwise and superficial judgment towards one another. Not to mention malicious gossip. That is not the effect intended by the creation and application of Buddhist wisdom.

    "Good job"
    - Hancock

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