“I f*****g want NOTHING to do with you!” Ever heard those words? Ever wanted to say them? Ever wanted to SCREAM them?
I opened the year with that energy floating about, initially subversive, then obvious and insidious, like the the stench of the chicken, murdered behind my house by a cat I was watching.
It happens; people leave our lives, and we deal with it as best we can, especially if we love them, were close to them, shared deep, moving times together.
It’s never pleasant or desired, but sometimes it’s warranted.
Having had to part ways with someone I thought was close as the year opened, I noticed something that needed addressing, something I’d never thought about before.
You know what I’m talking about: pity in friendship, in love, in business.
You ever pity someone and do something simply because you pity them? Or worse, ever not say things because you pity them? Because you “feel bad”? Because the truth is painful and “unnecessary”?
What if I told you that pity is horrific and dangerous and leaves those you pity hating you?
It does, and they do. Every time. No exceptions.
The fine line between pity and compassion
Having studied and practiced Buddhism for years, I always sought compassion in situations. I haven’t been perfect; I did my best.
I’ve done more pro bono projects and given more free advice time than I can count; that’s in my nature.
But what if the response to that compassion is treachery? What if its never reciprocates in truth, in kind, and you find yourself giving, giving, giving, with nothing legitimate in return?
You stop HARD, and you ask yourself why you’re giving so much.
Compassion is good if it’s healthy. When it tips, it’s not, but there is a real important difference to observe between compassion and pity:
Pity’s root is shame for having more / being better / being more skilled / some perceived “more-ness” than another.
Compassion, on the other hand, is genuine love for another and a sadness for their situation, which creates an authentic desire to help, support and give.
See the difference?
Pity is always rooted in some form of self-dislike, awkwardness or shame.
I learned this distinction finally.
Teasing the situation apart, I saw that I was constantly dancing between compassion and pity. There was always a part of me that felt a bit bad for being good at what I do, for having so much experience, for having worked with top-notch individuals and organizations.
But that experience is – I’m sorry, Kat – indisputable. I had to get used to being frank about it in the world of small business entrepreneurs who very often didn’t. You know this is true.
I grew up with the web industry, starting to work at start-ups and dot coms in ’99 at the ripe age of 18.
I was the 2nd youngest person at my first “real” job, and almost everyone quietly resented me and the 17 y.o. network security guy (I’m not sure why; we were complete delinquents.)
I got used to people saying “Wow, you’re so young.” “Wow, you’re a girl.” Wow this. Wow that. And got used to feeling bad after these “compliments.” I began to feel bad for all the hard work I put in, for hustling 22 credit semesters at engineering school while working full time in the tech industry, when I “should have been” passing out drunk at frat houses.
Yeah, I felt bad because there weren’t that many people who did the same thing, not many girls in the industry, not many people who were as nerdy and hippy as I. It was slim pickin’, so you do what you do – and being generous by nature, I gave my time away like it was endless.
I offered support – to many amazing organizations and people – and then to those less deserving, often without ever seeing credit for it, and ultimately to those who didn’t deserve it at all. Because I felt BAD about my experience, my “luck”, my hard work.
Do you do the same thing anywhere?
Stop. They’ll hate you for it.
Even if the words “I hate you.” never leaves their mouth; even if they never realize it themselves, the resentment will build up, and chances are, there will be theft, dishonor and guile: “But that’s not how I meant it.”
I have worked with many many teams and people over the course of my career. I’ve worked on Wall St. in academia, with companies and organizations of all sizes all over the world. Really. And I’ll tell you – give your time to those who deserve it, to those who value it, to those who can offer reciprocity, to those who can pay you back, in some way or another.
Else you’ll just have to clean house, and aside from being unpleasant, it’s very time consuming.
Now my focus is on those relationships that bring equal measure of joy, honesty and reciprocity, and of course on The Epic Brand course, which I’m so proud of, so honored to share with you.
Feel free to share your growth line here too.
What did 2014 opening bring you?