Compassion, Contempt, Communication
Your partner’s really hacked you off with that thing they repeatedly do and you want to tell them so but you also don’t want an argument. You’re on your way out to a party and you want to have a fun evening so you decide that you will handle this matter in a compassionate way. Your partner responds well to your comments and you feel like a massive weight has been lifted. You both go out and have a lovely evening, laughing, smiling, touching and nurturing.
Three days later, your partner has done that other thing that drives you equally bonkers, but this time you let your contempt explode in their face, along with the fury in your eyes and the outstretched fingers. Your partner behaves equally aggressive back and two hours later you’re both still arguing and feeling pretty miserable!
What happened guys, what created the difference? When it’s written like so, it’s pretty obvious isn’t it! We know this stuff, we’re intelligent enough to know that like attracts like. We know that when we deal with people compassionately, we:
- get the same in return,
- we feel good about ourselves,
- we feel good about them,
- we give others the respect they deserve,
- we reach solutions quickly,
- we feel good about the relationship, often better than we did before the discussion…
…but something gets in the way sometimes, resulting in horrible outcomes neither of you want nor deserve.
When we become contemptuous with people, we:
- get the same in return,
- we feel bad about ourselves,
- we feel hateful towards them,
- we don’t give them the respect they deserve,
- we reach solutions slowly if at all, and
- we feel worse about the relationship, sometimes temporarily, sometimes indefinitely.
Compassion Vs Contempt: It’s A Choice
So why do we choose one path over the other despite knowing intellectually where it will lead? How we feel about ourselves, how we feel about the other person and how we feel about the situation will determine which path we follow. Notice, it’s about our feelings and what determines these feelings is the thought process that runs through our mind before we decide to deal with an issue with compassion or contempt.
When we’re experiencing negative emotions our cognitive functions such as thinking clearly, decision making, problem solving and memory recall, all become impaired so in that “hazy” state it is easy to let your mouth run off without a thought for the consequences. However, aside from that is a motivation, an inner drive.
How You Feel About You: Compassion Or Contempt
If we are feeling centred and at peace within ourselves, it is easier for us to deal with people compassionately because our energy reserves are higher. When we are not required to expend much energy on working out our personal issues, we have a greater capacity for patience with others.
If you find yourself getting contemptuous quickly, maybe it’s because you have personal stuff that you’re not acknowledging or not dealing with or not achieving progress on despite trying to.
If you find yourself feeling contemptuous towards another, maybe it’s actually that you’re directing the contempt you have towards yourself, towards them. It serves as an outlet of the emotion, however misdirected.
If you find your contempt boils quickly and frequently to the surface, perhaps you don’t even know what it is that’s truly making you feel angry and are maybe unfairly directing a disproportionate amount towards them. Frequent bouts of anger often result from being in a heightened state of arousal for an extended period of time if you’ve been experiencing negative emotions for a long time but keep trying to ignore or suppress them. This is due to the fight-or-flight response that your body initiates in times of perceived danger; if you ignore it, it won’t just go away and instead can even result in physical illness.
How You Feel About Them: Compassion Or Contempt
Contempt results in us essentially treating a fellow human being as though they are of a lower worth than we are! Yikes! Compassion, on the other hand, results in us treating them with sympathy, empathy, love and respect. Therefore, whilst you may have several reasons for being angry with someone, you are choosing how you view them which will determine how you deal with them. In other words, it comes back to your thoughts about them which then determine you emotions which in turn determine your actions, i.e. whether you choose to be treat them with compassion or contempt.
You are in charge of your own thoughts and you can choose to have different thoughts at any time. You choose to think about someone from a place of compassion or a place of contempt and this choice of yours determines how you behave with them which then determines the relationship outcomes you will achieve.
When you choose compassion, before you discuss your grievances with someone, you basically ask yourself good questions like:
- What is the reason they are behaving (repeatedly) this way?
- What is the source of their aggression / their apparent disregard for me / their poor communication / their irritability / their forgetfulness / their unreliability / and so on?
- What would help them to be more mindful of not doing the things that are really upsetting me / our relationship?
When you choose contempt, before you discuss your grievances with someone, you’ve stopped asking yourself good questions and have likely started making negative judgements, for example:
- They are dumb / they are unreliable / they are a bad person.
- They have no regard for me / they think I am stupid.
- They will never learn / they will never get it right.
Which Choice Helps You And Which Hinders You – Compassion Or Contempt?
Clearly, whichever approach you choose will result in a different outcome. The choice is easy…if you stop to think about it as you make it a habit to view and treat all people with compassion. Of course some people are just bad for us and some people do wrong by us but the majority of the time, we create the good, the bad and the ugly with how we choose to deal with ourselves and with others.
Compassion towards yourself is just as important as compassion towards others so start thinking about the choice you make because the price is high. Don’t wait until you’re regretfully divorced, lost a good friend or ruined a good romance to start thinking about it. First comes compassion, then comes understanding, then come solutions, and then comes happiness and personal and relationship satisfaction.