The need to help others, in my experience, is one of the greatest weaknesses a person can have. Though posessing it is seen as a good thing and earns one the laurels of being noble or saintly, it's a bitter curse that follows those who posses it, often clean to their grave.

The bitter reality is that most people don't want to be helped. They think they do and they act as such, but what most people want is nothing more than reaffirmation for their own ideas and goals. They don't want you to tell them or help them get what they need, they want you to tell them what they think they need. Often times being helped requires more effort than the act of helping, but most people, even those at their lowest, aren't willing to put forth the effort to change their perspectives, mend their ways or open their minds.

The result, the people you try to save find themselves running in circles. As if trying to wear down the fabric of their souls, they place themselves in vicious cycles, unable to break free, constantly tricking themselves that they're making ground when nothing could be farther from the truth. An abusive boyfriend who brings home a rose is a saint just long enough to bring her back home, a backstabbing friend extends an olive branch just long enough to twist the knife again, an addict comes clean just long enough to let his friends pull him back down when he tries to save them, it's all the same, it's all a cycle.

Everyone knows that these things are lies. That most of the good things in the world are just illusions created by the cunning snakes that surround us. Still, we believe in them, we believe in them fully and totally not because we don't know better, but because we want to, we need to. The real world is far too cynical and vile a place for the human heart to survive, so, for many, naivete becomes a lifeline and those few of us that live in the real world are damned to eternal frustration, not because we ourselves become duped, but because those we care about do.

And in there lies the problem with caring. By caring, you take on someone's pain, someone's heartbreak, their misery. It's as if you reach inside them and pull out a fraction of their struggles and place it inside yourself, as if trying to lighten their burden by making it your own. Then you watch them as they go about their lives as if romping through a field of flowers, only to watch them get sucked down a hole. It's heart-wrenching, especially knowing that you couldn't stop them, that you couldn't save them and that, despite your better judgment and your stern warnings, they're suffering and you can't pull them out.

When I look back over the people I've tried to help, I don't see a string of successes or even checkerboard of successes and defeats, I see the faces of those I couldn't help. Those who spurned me and disappeared to parts unknown. They know who they are, I don't need to point them out, they all paid for their decisions, but yet, they all remain trapped in the same cycle that they were in before I met them, the cycle I tried to help them out of.

But yet, though they definitely suffered for their mistakes, I suffered as well. I let myself care for them, relate to them, sympathize with them and my only reward was a stern rebuttal and the heartbreak of watching them sink farther. All of my compassion has bought me nothing. Nothing save a curse that I can't seem to shake.

But as time has gone on, those souls have multiplied. It was as if they knew, by means of some cosmic force, that I felt this sick need to help others and that, they could turn to me. A few I've helped, and for those I am grateful, but most I've watched continue their ways, unmended, riding on a roller coaster of tears, only to call me when things bottom out again.

Now their cries are a deafening howl, like the sound of a million tormented souls crying out in pain. it echoes in my head, it rattles in my heart and it keeps me awake most nights of the week. Combined with the faces of those that turned me away and broke my heart, it's almost too much to bear. All I ever offered was a helping hand, all that I ever received was punishment.

So perhaps it is true that no good deed goes unpunished. That in my attempt to help my fellow man and bring some good to this venomous world, that I too have made myself a jaded, cynical and bitter man who's losing his compassion, like water through cupped hands, one drop at a time.

So yes, I was born with a curse, the curse of compassion and understanding. Though a pragmatist to the end, I've never been enough of one to save myself and that alone dooms me to be bound by the folly of my fellow man, not because I can't see through it, but because I can't stop caring about it.

In the end, it was my heart, not my mind, that was my weakness.

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12 Responses to Compassion

  1. Indriana says:

    *hugs you* it'll be alright, you know? Honestly.

  2. Chris says:

    I do not see having a compassionate heart as a weakness. In fact, I kind of see it as a strength for those who are able to bear the pain that comes with it.

    Raven, you mention in your article that there are some people you've helped who did not return to their previous ways. For those people, your help probably mattered a great deal. Is it then a weakness to want to do this sort of good for other people's lives? I should think not… rather, I'd say that it is a strength to be able to handle the pain that often accompanies attempts at aid.

  3. Bran. says:

    I love this piece. I've been though it.

    And you're still a sweet, caring individual…

  4. tanya says:

    you can't help people. the most anyone one person can do for another person is support them. i learned real hard when i tried to help an ex of mine and almost came to her end myself. darkness almost always wins…

  5. Nima says:

    Alas, this world is a double-edged sword, you will always have two sides to everything…you want to close your heart to compassion but you can't…it's built into your character, it's like running away while being tied to a string, the more you run, the harder the tug

  6. Lycosidae says:

    Yes, you are correct. Having a caring heart almost always causes the owner of the heart to take on pain. More pain is caused by the actual failure of trying to help or save someone than by actually knowing about their problem.

  7. jules says:

    i tend to think of compassion as trying to be in someone else's shoes; to listen to what they have to say, to be aware of what they're feeling…rather than actually helping them. Trying to help someone isn't necessarily being compassionate towards them because what I believe is helpful to someone isn’t always perceived as such. i view compassion as something that is truly benevolent and not naive; its aim is not to bring about equilibrium in people or the world. I think it’s a way of sitting next to someone throughout their hardships, and to offer some camaraderie.

  8. Pixie says:

    I really liked this piece as it very much describes a point I am at in some of my relationships. It also reminded me of your "Sea of Souls" poem which I have always thought was beautiful.

  9. Lady Ravana says:

    I know how it feels; trust me. In my short 17 years of life on this Earth, I've been there more than once. I've either been the shoulder to cry on or played the therapist because I'm a good listener. Then I was only to be abandoned by those I thought I could trust; the words "I'm here for you" were often taken for granted. In my times of need they would turn their backs on me. I tell you, compassion is for the weak, maudlin and sentimental fools of the world. A cruel and bitter mockery of it's supposed meaning.

  10. katie says:

    sorry for those people who are sick of seeing my comments but i just cannot help myself. trust me raven i think i can relate to what you have written here and i could not agree with you more about the bit where you say the need to help others is a great weakness. people never appreciate it and it comes back to haunt you.

  11. gothic rose says:

    "I flet this sick need to help others and that, they could turn to me" Oh so often I have felt this way. Those I love and care about I will bend over backwards to help them through their difficult times, just for the solemn reward of seeing them happy once again. I don't know what it is but the curse you talk about, the truth of that rings bells in my ears. The pain i experiance when someone I love is hurting, it is somthing I cannot escape. Why? I'm not entrily sure, but some of the passages posted on the site have given me more of an insite into the reasons. Your writing is truely amazing as it comes from the heart, I realise this has been said a hundred times before. You really have touched somthing deep inside of me without you even knowing it. If that was your intention when creating this site, then congratulations are store, u succeed well.

  12. Kat says:

    I could never help anyone I didn't care for. And even then that is few people I would ever help. I choose to only help those CLOSEST to me. One friend, one lover, and one mother. That's it. Those are all I would ever help.

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