The Face of Kindness

In the book The Road Less Travelled, Scott Peck starts the book with the line: ‘Life is difficult.’ I recall my response to it was that ‘Life is challenging, not always difficult, indeed, sometimes, joyful, mystical and transcendent’. But is it not also a reflection of the reality of human living to say that ‘Everyone suffers.’ As children, we suffer harshness, irritability, aggression, violence, sexual abuse, comparisons, ‘put downs’, emotional abandonment, social ostracisation, bullying, passivity, injustice, being labelled, ignored, exiled, demeaned and lessened.  The responses to these sad experiences is to become fearful, depressed, withdrawn, delusional, illusional, perfectionistic, success and work addicted, addicted to substances, obsessional, compulsive, controlling, rebellious and passive. Unless resolved, we bring our defensive responses to suffering into our adulthood and, sadly, in turn bring suffering to others.

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Is Compassion Possible in the Workplace?

Compassion is an emotion that arises in response to understanding that the difficult behaviours of either employees or managers are not consciously deliberate in their neglect of others but are unconsciously designed to bring attention to the individual’s inner turmoil. Is it a bridge too far to ask an employee who has been relentlessly bullied by a manager to have a compassionate understanding of the manager’s unconscious plight? Such a situation is only possible when individuals who have been bullied first of all develop a compassionate understanding of their own emotional pain and the passivity that has unconsciously prevented the emergence of an assertiveness that would have challenged the bullying behaviour when it first presented. There are two very separate issues that require consideration here – one, the plight of those who are at the receiving end of bullying and, two, the plight of those who owing to their inner securities resort to bullying to reduce perceived threats to their wellbeing. There is a further consideration – that compassionate understanding is suggesting that individuals who bully or who are passive are responsible to their defensive responses but they are not responsible for their actions. The ‘to’ and ‘for’ distinction is important because when others insist you are ‘responsible for’ your actions, they are judging that you are deliberately being neglectful, whereas when others assert the need for you to take ‘responsibility to’ your actions, I know that your bullying arises from a place of hurt within yourself; in this way they are compassionate, non-judgemental but still assert the need for you to take responsibility to the neglect perpetrated.

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