Week Three - Tiferet - Compassion
Tiferet -compassion - blends and harmonizes the free outpouring love of Chesed with the discipline of Gevurah. Tiferet possesses this power by introducing a third dimension - the dimension of truth, which is neither love or discipline and therefore can integrate the two. Truth is accessed through selflessness: rising above your ego and your predispositions, enables you to realize truth. A clear and objective picture of yours and others needs. The imbalance of love and discipline (and for that matter, any distortion) is a result of a subjective, hence limited perspective;
introducing truth, by suspending personal prejudices, allows you to express your feelings (including the synthesis of Chesed and Gevurah) in the healthiest manner. This quality gives Tiferet its name, which means beauty: it blends the differing colors of love and discipline, and this harmony makes it beautiful. For Tiferet to be complete it needs the inclusion of the following seven facets: love of compassion, discipline of compassion, compassion of compassion, endurance of compassion, humility of compassion, bonding of compassion and sovereignty of compassion.
Chesed of Tiferet - The Love Aspect of Compassion.
Is my compassion tender and loving or does it come across as pity?
Compassion has no judgment in it while pity has the connotation that something should have been done differently. Compassion
is simply being able to put yourself in another’s frame of reference and feel their sorrow or pain about the situation. Pity is dispassionate and without connection.
Is my sympathy condescending and patronizing?
If you are feeding the homeless and thinking along the lines of: you poor thing or what a shame, you are looking down on the person in front of you. Remember, it is by the grace of God that you are not living in pain; we are all equal, we all eventually die and face our God.
Even if my intention is otherwise, do others perceive it as such?
If others think you are looking down at them, you are somehow conveying that feeling. Our thoughts and feelings sometimes are discordant, but others will surely pick up on our deeper self.
Does my compassion overflow with love and warmth?
When you see the other person as equal to yourself despite their circumstances, your compassion will have depth and sincerity.
Is my compassion expressed with enthusiasm or is it static and lifeless?
Is there such a thing as cold compassion? If what you express is lifeless, it is not compassion; you are more likely feeling pity.
When helping someone do I extend myself in the fullest way by offer a smile or a loving gesture?
True compassion is joyful even in the pain you perceive in another. When you feel compassion for the homeless person, you see the person
behind the situation and connect to their inner self. This is real compassion.
Gevurah of Tiferet - The Discipline Aspect of Compassion
For compassion to be effective and healthy it needs to be disciplined and focused. It requires discretion both to whom you express compassion, and in the measure of the compassion itself. It is recognizing when compassion should be expressed and when it should be withheld or limited. Discipline in compassion is knowing that being truly compassionate sometimes requires withholding compassion.
Because compassion is not an expression of the bestower's needs but a response to the recipient's needs.
Am I more compassionate with strangers than with close ones?
People who take care of strangers and neglect their family are practicing a debased form of compassion; they are doing it to look good and for others to think they are a good person, not because they are a compassionate person.
If yes, why? Is the compassion coming from guilt?
This is a selfish form of compassion; I feel guilty and bad about myself because I’m not really compassionate, so I’ll do something nice for someone who doesn’t know me and they’ll think I’m really a nice person.
Am I helping others at the expense of helping myself?
Some people like to be the martyr because they have an idea that it somehow makes them a better person; unfortunately, the word would be bitter. We eventually resent giving of ourselves and never getting anything in return.
Does my compassion for others compromise my own needs?
No one can be an unending stream of giving. When we continue to ignore our own needs, we will eventually break down physically, emotionally, mentally. This is a form of self abuse and does not promote our ability to do God’s work.
Does my compassion for my family and close ones overshadow others needs?
Is my compassion impulsive and careless?
Although compassion comes from a feeling, it is a thoughtful and deliberate process. Just because you plan to do a good deed, don’t be lulled into thinking you will be safe.
Do I assess the measure of compassion necessary for a given situation?
We’ve all seen the comedy skit where the big bosomed grandmother takes an unsuspecting male teenager to her chest to comfort him, only to embarrass him beyond his imagination. Likewise, I may not like whiney children, but I should be sure they really aren’t in need before I tell them to stop whining.
Is my compassion commensurate with the recipient's needs?
Sometimes people don’t want help and resent others extending it to them. Remember, compassion has to do with what the other person feels and they may feel they need more or less compassion than we think is necessary.
Can I possibly be hurting the other with my compassion?
If you are enabling someone to avoid full responsibility for their life and behavior, you are preventing their growth. Overprotective parents do their children a disservice because the child then enters the world ill prepared for reality.
Does my compassion overwhelm others?
It doesn’t feel good if someone else has more feeling about my situation than I do. It is disrespectful to project your feelings into someone else’s event.
Is it respectful?
Being respectful means honoring the boundaries of what’s mine and what’s yours. Let me feel the way I feel about whatever and your job is to honor that.
Do I give too much or too little?
It never works to care more about something than the person the something is about. Parents who care more about their child’s grades are always disappointed in the child’s performance because the child doesn’t care; how could he?
Do others take advantage of my compassionate nature?
If you’re a giver and know a taker, remember they will keep taking until you are empty. Allowing someone to do this is disrespectful to yourself and shows no self compassion.
When I see a needy person do I impetuously express compassion out of guilt or pity without any discretion?
There are a lot of homeless people who beg for food or funds at intersections. There is no way to determine if they are really hungry and really have homeless children or if they are buying drugs or alcohol with the money they receive. It can get pretty uncomfortable sitting at a red light with someone looking your way and some people will pull out a dollar just so they don’t feel guilty.
Do I commit the "crime" of compassion by helping him with something harmful (give him money to buy a harmful substance etc.)?
Too often parents and spouses give their loved one money to‘buy food’ knowing full well it is not food they plan to buy. If you are afraid they will go hungry, offer to feed them.
Do I apply myself to determine this person's needs and help him in the best way possible by expressing my compassion in a focused and constructive manner by addressing their specific need?
I wonder if these homeless people ever used the services available to them; especially the ones who say they have children. There really is no way to determine their level of sincerity, however, I would have to assume that they are in some state of desperation to be standing at an intersection asking for whatever someone will give them. Perhaps I could look into what services are available and make a list to give to the people at the intersection. Perhaps I should carry food in my car. I just don’t see myself giving them money, but there are things I could do to help.
Tiferet of Tiferet – The Compassion Aspect of Compassion
The expression of compassion and its intensity. True compassion is limitless. It is not an extension of your needs and defined by your limited perspective. Compassion for another is achieved by having a selfless attitude, rising above yourself and placing yourself in the other person's situation and experience.
Am I prepared and able to do that? If not, why?
Our ego gets in the way of many things and it can take many forms, but the root is usually a judgment we make against another person.
When we completely understand that we do not have the right to judge another, we will be able to have real compassion for others.
How do I express compassion?
Every situation calls for a different expression of compassion. Sometimes sitting quietly is all that’s needed and sometimes the other
needs a lot of reassurance. True compassion knows when to do which.
Do I express and actualize the compassion and empathy in my heart?
When you feel true compassion for someone, it is hard not to act upon it in some form.
What blocks me from expressing it?
It’s hard to believe that a person who feels compassion would then withhold it from another. Sometimes, in an effort to not enable another, we don’t yet know what to do, so we do nothing. This is done from the perspective of self preservation, not stinginess. There are also times that we are in such a bad emotional place ourselves that we are depleted and have nothing to give.
Am I locked in any way?
If you are, then heal yourself before you try to heal others. If we help from an injured perspective, we may impart faulty support.
Is my compassion compassionate or self-serving?
If you need others to thank you and feel appreciation for what you have done, you are bestowing compassion to satisfy yourself and not others. We are compassionate for the sake of being so, not for any accolades we may get for our actions.
Is it compassion that comes out of guilt or is it expressed only out of obligation rather than genuine empathy?
If you are compassionate out of guilt or obligation, it will feel empty and therefore not very compassionate. Others can tell when your words are hollow.
How does obligation affect and distort my compassion?
Guilt, obligation, resentment, any negative feeling associated with compassion will tarnish it and inhibit the positive effect you would expect from true compassion.
Can I express compassion towards someone to whom I have been angry and callous?
This is “love thy enemies” in action. To be able to have compassion for someone who has hurt us in some way requires the ability to take your ego out of the situation and understand we are all prone to making mistakes.
Is my compassion a result of being a creature of habit who feels badly when another suffers?
I would argue that we should feel badly when someone else is suffering; however, we can’t feel bad for everything otherwise we would get nothing done. There is a lot of evil in this world and we have to titrate the amount we are exposed to.
Is my compassion frivolous?
The typical bleeding heart has no idea what’s really going on, they just have compassion for the perceived victim. They are often looking for a cause and will change causes as soon as the current one starts to fall apart. Too much compassion to the wrong people drains us.
Do I apply myself to examine and refine my compassion, observing its limitations and forms of expression?
Compassion of compassion means we also have compassion for ourselves. Knowing when to stop giving compassion or when compassion is not the needed response is respecting the limitations of compassion.
Is my compassion alive and resound with vitality?
If it is, you will feel better and the other will feel better because this kind of compassion has life and renews itself.
Is my compassion beautiful and well rounded?
You can tell if your compassion is well rounded by how others respond to you. If they see you as kind and helpful, then they view your compassion to be genuine and well rounded.
Does it contain the other six elements of Tiferet (love, discipline, endurance, humility, bonding, and sovereignty),
without which my full compassion remains unrealized?
We must express compassion for it to be real.
Express your compassion in a new way that goes beyond your previous limitations: express it towards someone to whom you have been callous.
Netzach of Tiferet – The Endurance Aspect of Compassion
Is my compassion enduring and consistent?
It may be hard to maintain a positive attitude especially when some one seems to be in constant crisis; however, if you have ever had your world fall apart, you would know that it takes a while to get things right and that requires several crises along the way.
Is it reliable or whimsical?
If I can’t be compassionate when I’m in a bad mood, then my compassion is a façade that I wear when I want to look good. It’s one thing to be overwhelmed, but when you take the attitude of ‘I have problems too so don’t bother me’, that’s an erratic ability to have compassion.
Does it prevail among other forces in my life?
If I can feel compassion even when I feel miserable and emotionally upset myself, then I have learned the endurance aspect of compassion.
Do I have the capacity to be compassionate even when I’m busy with other activities or only when it's comfortable for me?
Too busy for compassion has an air of arrogance and only extending compassion when it feels good for your self is far from compassionate; it is selfish and egotistical.
Am I ready to stand up and fight for another?
Compassionate people tend to fight for someone else before they fight for themselves. The real question is can you fight for yourself? If you are truly compassionate, show yourself the same compassion that you show others.
Can I defend someone who is in need of sympathy even if it's not a popular position?
This is the true test of endurance, the ability to take a position that you believe is right and just even if there are some around you who happen to have some power and they disagree. This kind of endurance of compassion can easily be misinterpreted and you have to be
able to withstand criticism and even condemnation.
Hod of Tiferet - The Humility Aspect of Compassion
Compassion must include humility for it not to be condescending and pretentious. Hod is recognizing that my ability to be compassionate and giving does not make me better than the recipient; it is the acknowledgement and appreciation that by creating one who needs compassion
G-d gave me the gift of being able to bestow compassion. Thus there is no place for haughtiness in compassion.
Do I feel superior because I am compassionate?
I would say that if you feel superior for any reason, you have missed the whole point of humility. I thank God that I am better off than some people I have seen and I say that with complete awe at how much God has blessed me.
Do I look down at those that need my compassion?
I may think their situation is horrible and something I would never want to have to deal with, but I could never look down on someone who has managed to endure and maintain even in the face of terrible circumstances.
Am I humble and thankful to G-d for giving me the ability to have compassion for others?
I thank God every day for giving me the life that I have, for allowing me to do the work I did for 30 years, for all the ways I was protected during terrible times; I must have compassion for others, otherwise I would be very unappreciative of all that God has done for me.
Can I express compassion in an anonymous fashion without taking any personal credit?
If I need credit to be compassionate, then I am operating out of what I need and not what the other needs. I shouldn’t need recognition for doing something nice for someone else.
Yesod of Tiferet – The Bonding Aspect of Compassion
For compassion to be fully realized, it needs bonding. It requires creating a channel between giver and receiver. A mutuality that extends beyond the moment of need. A bond that continues to live on. That is the most gratifying result of true compassion.
Do you bond with the one you have compassion for, or do you remain apart?
When you experience true compassion, you can’t help but bond because you have allowed part of that person to connect to part of you. Although it may be a professional bond, there are some who elicit a bond and others who don’t. Part of feeling compassion is knowing
who seeks your bond and who doesn’t.
Does your interaction achieve anything beyond a single act of sympathy?
We may not realize it at the time, but, when we bond with compassion, we leave a lasting impression upon people that they carry for many years.
Ensure that something eternal is built as a result of your compassion.
Malchut of Tiferet – The Sovereignty Aspect of Compassion
Examine the dignity of your compassion. For compassion to be complete (and enhance the other six aspects of compassion) it must recognize and appreciate individual sovereignty. It should boost self-esteem and cultivate human dignity for both your own dignity and the dignity of the one benefiting from your compassion.
Is my compassion expressed in a dignified manner?
We may feel great compassion for someone else’s pain, but we don’t need to wail or rant about their circumstances. Gushing emotions, especially for another, is hardly dignified.
Do I manifest and emphasize majesty in my compassion?
If your compassion is outrage at what happened to another person, be royal in your expression and if it is great sorrow, be reverent in you demeanor. Remember, you are supporting another in their experience, not pitying them for their misfortune.
Do I recognize the fact that when I experience compassion as dignified it will reflect reciprocally in the one who receives compassion?
When you connect with someone with true compassion, they feel your love and you feel their appreciation; it is a beautiful and satisfying experience.
Do I help others in a fashion that elicits and strengthens their dignity?
Knowing how much to help reinforces the other’s dignity. The very act of recognizing their individual need strengthens their sense of self.