Is this the correct mindset to help other people?
I’ve been wrangling with this topic for the past whole day till I found this article which really helps in clearing up a part of it:
Please don't be offended, but when I'm not feeling well I don't want your sympathy. I know that I get depressed. But…lindagask.com
People can sometimes be really very kind to me when they are feeling sympathetic, and I appreciate that. I can see they do want me to feel better. But that warm feeling only lasts as long as I don’t do something to upset them- like shout at them or start arguing and tell them to go away. They can lose all sympathy for me then, because they really can’t feel very positive about the new angry version of me- and you need to feel ‘good’ about a person to have that warm glow of sympathy for them.
So I fear unless you can truly make an empathic connection with a person rather than simply feel sympathy for them, the extent of your compassion will be limited. It will disappear as soon as they disappoint you. I’ve seen this happen to so many people with ‘troublesome’ behaviour with whom caring professionals have not made that important attempt to understand a life from a different perspective than their own. I have felt it from colleagues when my own behaviour was no longer within ‘acceptable’ limits for ‘depression’.
I was reading a story about this fictional character who has a broken childhood. She’s damaged through and through and I can’t help but to think of reaching out my hand to such person should they exist; I want these kind of people to have their well deserved happy ending. But the moment I thought of this I questioned myself on whether I’m really thinking of doing this for their sake or for my own personal satisfaction instead.
In the first place, what I considered to be good from my perspective could be something that they don’t necessarily need. Am I enforcing my version of happiness to them? This could be unhealthy. It’s a problem of intention and whether we have methods that are suitable for the case.
In the end, I settled with the thought of having them at least stop inflicting harms to themselves or people around them, that’s an objective good, but I have had multiple encounters in the past that exactly mirror this situation and I had done very poorly at them despite my best efforts to change people. From there on I learned that there’s a huge difference between people who want to change themselves but can’t, and people who don’t want to change but can.
We can assist the people in the first group as they may lack the means they needed, while the best we can do for those in second group is to be there should they need us. To empathize and understand, and nothing else. Because unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately) people can only change themselves in the end.
It makes me think a lot about how we can be kind without pity. A kindness without sympathy. That I’m not singling you out because you look like you need help and thus I’m offering my pity. That given a different situation and circumstances I can and will still be kind, not because you just look like somebody who needed help but because I choose to lend my ear no matter who or what your situation is. I don’t know whether that’s a correct perspective (do tell me your opinion), but I think I want to be a person like that.