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This subject has now arisen three times in the past month, so I am starting to pay attention. To be specific, if we can be compassionate and honest and clear and direct in relationships (of any kind), then that pierces through unspoken expectations, delusions and it gets both people (or organizations) on the same page. Instead, there are times when secrets are kept, whether for I-don’t-want-to-hurt-him/her or it-is-my-culture’s-mores-to-deal-with-this-on-a-private-individual-level or for other reasons… And this leads to further complications and problems.
I would argue that the most compassionate and kind thing we can do, when we are certain about a change of heart, is to tell the individuals we are in relationship with. Even if it will be uncomfortable to hear. Think about the Bandaid removal technique – sure it will hurt for a split second, but then the pain will be gone. But if we take months to remove the Bandaid, then we can suffer the entire time.
A friend of mine, who happens to be incarnated as a fiery young Hispanic woman, recently commented on how “You gringos are so strange! You can’t ever just come right out and say what you need to.” And how accurate that sentiment is!
And not too long ago, I was involved in a curious, sticky situation where, if both people had been clear and direct and honest as soon as things were known to them, then issues could have been cleaner and tidy and understood much earlier. Instead, I finally confronted this person to gain clarity. And yes, we both happen to be incarnated as Caucasian Americans. And only upon asking a direct question, saying, “Don’t hold anything back because you are afraid of hurting my feelings,” did I realize where exactly she stood. Had I not confronted her, my afflicted mind might have gone on deluding itself for months further! Ooooph!
I have heard that this is an “Asian” thing to do. That is to not tell something that might hurt the other person (or group). Instead of being direct, they tend to let it dissolve over time. I guess the sentiment is that the other person(s) will get the message and deal with it in her/his own way and at their own pace. And I’m also assuming that emotions are stuffed and dealt with in a very private, personal manner. Well I say this is a potentially nebulous and strange way to go about life. Personally, I think this method is much less compassionate and I would even go so far as to say that this is much less kind than being radically honest. Why not be clear and compassionate and save everyone a whole bunch of time and mental energy?
I have had one woman, in the distant past, say to me, “Kirby, I have never been interested in you [romantically], I’m not interested in you now and I never will be.” And to be honest, those words kind of smacked me in the face (right?!?!). But then I instantly got the message and after taking a few hours to process them, I started to move on. Within a few days, we were on friendly terms again, with an obvious change in how we related.
If I like you, and it seems you like me back, the kindest thing you can do is tell me if / when your heart changes. Period. None of this beating around the bush, “Oh that is not the way the [substitute an Asian culture here] do it.” No, I want you to hurt me if it will pierce through my deluded mind. Please show up emotionally and tell me, let me be the one to deal with my pain. Do not try to inadvertently protect me, as this might perpetuate my delusions for weeks or months longer. Not good!
If you believe that I will not take the new information well, then what are you doing in relationship with me in the first place? Come on. I am an adult, I have done a lot of personal growth work, I consider myself to be emotionally mature. I will not explode in hysterics, I assure you. Step up to the plate and just be honest. That is the most compassionate and kind thing you can do.
As soon as you are honest with me, then I can start to process the new information and then I can move on that much faster. But if I am floundering for several months, wondering, analyzing and resting in confused mind, then your silence (or tiny subtle hints) on the matter do not help me in the least. If one person in a relationship has started to move in a different direction, without telling the other, then that is not compassionate or kind in the least.
Sometimes the gentle approach is less kind – but do check in to see what the situation requires. It is vital that we are skillful. If we find out that we have gotten into a relationship with someone who might flip his/her lid when we tell them that we need space, then it might be best to not be direct. But if we are both spiritual practitioners who have taken vows to not cause harm, and we both act like emotionally-mature adults, then be direct, be honest, and this is the most compassionate thing we can do.
Thanks for listening to me rant and I wish everyone clarity within relationships.