The Death of Compassion

I remember when I got into an argument with a friend recently.

It’s not about who was right or wrong. I think we both had valid points to share. Maybe because these days we live with opposing stances about service.

She’s a giver. She likes to provide. She does it selflessly. Devoted to her cause. And yet in my eyes, prone to be taken advantage of. All the kindness she gives. She doesn’t ask for anything in return. She finds that beautiful and satisfying.

I’m worried that I’m being consumed by too much grit and determination. I’ve become short of obsessed with self-improvement. I’ve put competitiveness over compassion. Is it my hormones? Is it the testosterone in my blood caused by consistent training?

Or is it about growing older and becoming more and more cynical.

  • Me: What’s the point of giving if you’re getting less in return?
  • Her: What’s the point of giving if you’re asking for something in return?

I’m selfish, yes. She’s selfless. Is being selfish a bad thing?

I feel that I am selfish because…

  • I’m protective of my resources. I’m not a doctor or a lawyer. I don’t earn tens of thousands of dollars. I earn a living as a content creator. A visual artist in my own right. For practicality, how stable is that? What happens when I stop being creative? What happens when reality catches up to the fantasies I create in my head that fuel new ideas? The reality that much of my life is “living a dream” over “making ends meet”. I am blessed to live this way. But I am careful not to throw it away.
  • I’ve given service to others only to see myself fail. I guess the best example is my sport. Volunteering much time in the previous year to helping with the team’s image… but seeing my progress as a paddler dwindle. I was slow. Last year, I was watching over my teammate’s bags and picking up tarpaulins. I took pride in being able to express myself creatively together with my team… (they trusted me with it). But the point of joining a dragon boat team is to be physically strong. Thankful for the award but unhappy in the position I put myself in: Servant.
  • I’m tired of being the nice guy. I’ve seen many times how people can take advantage of those who are nice and polite. I’m tired of it. I no longer have patience to smile and laugh in useless conversations or small talk. I’m no longer afraid of what people have to say. I’m considerate. But when crossed I’ll shout back if I want. I’ll push and I’ll pull. I won’t be silenced if I feel I need to speak up. What’s to achieve? Shredding that facade of pleasantries.

I had this conversation with my friend. I told her that an older version of myself would find joy in serving others. But these days I’m basically “you know what, fuck it”.

To have compassion is a wonderful thing. Despite the angst, it has not died in me.

But there’s a difference between being compassionate and being, for the lack of a better word… used.