Eps 43: Why Ruthless Compassion Is Needed

I like the concept of ruthless compassion. It sounds quite paradoxical, doesn’t it? It is exactly the type of compassion many of us are afraid to embrace. When we think of compassion we think of loving kindness and gentle eyes. That is already scary for quite a few of us, because it involves vulnerability. But ruthless compassion is a little bit more difficult because it takes courage to be unconditionally honest.

Many of us think that compassion is synonymous with being friendly and don’t see how their friendliness is motivated by fear. We believe that we can’t be “mean” or “rude” to others, even if this means supressing our own needs and feelings. We let our boundaries be violated because we like to be a good person so badly. In reality, true compassion has nothing to do with being nice and everything to do with doing the right thing for ourselves and others. And when your compassion is not completely honest, it is not compassion but a lie.

The only way to be able to be ruthlessly compassionate is after having worked through your own stuff. You can’t call somebody on behavior that you don’t own yourself. By owning I mean that you have really seen it in yourself. I can’t call you a coward or a hypocrite if I haven’t seen my own cowardice of hypocrisy (that would be hypocritical). But if I am brave an honest enough to admit to my own shortcomings I can address your cowardice from the place of a fellow coward who has learned a thing or two about the limitations and suffering cowardice causes us. This makes me believable. Now I am somebody who is out to help you, not to judge you.

When a warrior has to kill his enemy, he has a very soft heart. He looks his enemy right in the face. The grip on his sword is quite strong and tough, and then with a tender heart, he cuts his enemy into two pieces. At that point, slashing an enemy is equivalent to making love to them. That very strong, powerful stroke is also sympathetic.

Excerpt from “Smile at Fear” by Chögyam Trungpa

When a human being has thoroughly experienced his or her own basic rawness, there is no room to manipulate the situation. We just go forward and present the truth quite fearlessly. We can be what we are, in a very straightforward and basic way. We are always relating to the world directly, choicelessly, and when the energy of the situation demands a destructive rather than a constructive response we call it ruthless compassion.


This is episode 43 in a series of 100 blog posts that will be published daily during the 100 Day Warrior, a unique program around physical strength, inner wisdom and meaning. All posts are written by Atalwin Pilon, founder of Basic Goodness and creator of the 100 Day Warrior. For requests for motivational speaking, in-company workshops, online coaching and mindfulness training click here. If you would like to join our international community of brave and inspiring human beings or just follow this blog and receive updates, please click here or sign up on the right side of the page. Atalwin specializes in coaching smart and creative people, both groups and individuals. If you are interested in a free coaching session click here.

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