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  • "Idiot compassion is a great expression, which was actually coined by Trungpa Rinpoche. It refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it's what’s called enabling. It's the general tendency to give people what they want because you can't bear to see them suffering. Basically, you're not giving them what they need. You're trying to get away from your feeling of I can't bear to see them suffering.

    We all know a lot of stories of people who had to hit bottom, where the people that they loved stopped giving them the wrong kind of compassion and just walked out. Then sometimes that wakes a person up and they start to do what they need to do."

    Pema Chodron

    A Compassionate Goose broke a wing and one of her legs. It was clear that she would not be up and around for many months.

    She cried her eyes out, wondering how she would handle all the complexities of her life while she recovered. How would she find food? Who would help her take care of her lovely home by the lake?

    Hearing about her sorry condition, one of her friends, a Badger, stopped by to comfort her. “You poor, dear beautiful Compassionate Goose, my special friend,” the Badger said. “I should so love to help you. Let me move in and be your caregiver!”

    The Compassionate Goose was moved, touched, delighted at the Badger’s offer.

    “You are so very kind,” the Goose said.

    The Badger smiled a mysterious little smile, and twitched his whiskers.

    The next day, he arrived with a big truck filled with his belongings. When he unpacked, his things not only filled up the Goose’s garage, but her library as well.

    The Goose was pleased. She had not realized that the Badger was actually homeless, and was happy to give him a place to stay while he took care of her. It seemed more than a fair exchange.

    The Badger not only filled up her garage and library with his things, but took over the guest house for a workspace, the guest room for sleeping, and was delighted that the Compassionate Goose was willing, out of gratitude, to cook for him!

    The Compassionate Goose often expressed her appreciation: “How kind of you to be here in my home, to help me! This is surely a miracle.”

    The Badger smiled a little smile at the Goose, and told her that he would do anything for such a kind friend. “You are a model of compassion and kindness,” he said. “How could I not want to do everything to make your recovery comfortable and pleasant.”

    The Goose then proceeded to provide everything the Badger needed to feel completely at home. But she began to notice that there was an odd thing taking place.

    She began to feel more and more like a housekeeper in her own home. The Badger was off doing his own things, and hardly even spoke to her, while she did everything she could to make sure that the Badger was being well repaid for his kindness to her.

    Because she was a Compassionate Goose, however, she suffered in silence, and tried to feel grateful that the Badger was at least on her property in case she had an emergency.
    This went on for many months, and it seemed that the Badger needed more and more things from the Goose for his comfort. And of course the Goose, being compassionate, gave and gave and gave.

    She was so very grateful that the Badger had come to live with her, to help with her recovery. But the Goose felt more and more uncomfortable, and had to ask other friends to help her do the things the Badger had promised to do for her.

    One day, an Owl who had known the Compassionate Goose for a long time, stopped by to have a cup of tea. When the Owl saw what was going on, she was horrified.
    “You are a stupid, crazy Compassionate Goose,” she shouted at her friend.

    “Don’t you see what this Badger is doing to you? He is taking over your life, feather by feather! He does nothing, while you have to bring in people to do what he promised to do!

    You have to live in two small rooms in your home, while he enjoys use of your studio, guest room, library and garage! He has you waiting on him, rather than taking care of you as he promised!”

    The Compassionate Goose was stunned.

    She was too kind and compassionate to have seen what was in fact happening.

    She had no frame of reference for being exploited. She did not even know what the word “exploit” meant. Because she was a Compassionate Goose, she was always concerned with the needs of others, and tried to help people in need.

    It had never occurred to her that the Badger did not have her best interests at heart, and thought that he was really doing her a huge favor by being on her property while she recovered.

    The Owl, seeing the bewildered look on her friend’s face, proceeded to spell out for the Compassionate Goose exactly what had been going on.

    The Goose felt very sick, then horrified, then angry, very very angry. “But what can I do?” She asked.

    The Owl did not stop, but explained a great many things to the Goose about how there are animals in this world who have no heart, no conscience, no compassion. Who think only of themselves. They are called psychopaths.

    “What?” said the Goose? “No heart, no conscience, no compassion? Can this be?”

    The Compassionate Goose felt dizzy.

    The Owl continued to spell many things out for the Goose, and then came up with a plan.

    “Here’s the deal,” the Owl said. “Either that No Good Badger is out of here ASAP, or you are going to call the Forest Patrol and have him marched out at gunpoint. Get it?”

    “Oh, could I do that?” cried the Goose. “I have never done anything like that in my life! I am compassionate.”

    But the wise Owl made her case, and the Compassionate Goose realized what had happened to her.

    “You are going to do something very simple,” the Owl said. “You are going to tell him to get the hell out and give him a deadline or risk horrible consequences.

    The next day, the Compassionate Goose ordered the Badger to pack up his things immediately and get out of her lovely house by the lake.

    The Badger, knowing the game was up, made haste to get out of there as soon as he could, his sharp little toenails click clicking on the hardwood floors, and hurried off to find someone else to move in on.

    MORAL: There is genuine compassion, and there is idiot compassion. Know the difference.

    (Edited and reposted)

    (Photograph by Alex in the 3-D virtual world of Second Life)
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