Have any questions?
+44 1234 567 890
Go on and cry! Please.
Pity is cruel. Because it makes it clear who is down on the ground and who is in control. In my opinion, the fact that it still has a somewhat good social reputation is based on a great misunderstanding and ignorance disguised as generosity. Upcoming: three disillusions with a virtue that isn’t one.
Someone is pitying you: what feelings come up inside of you? Or when you ask for pity? What image of yourself do you have in your head? Head held up high? Straight back? Or do you, even when you start thinking about it, feel how your shoulders pull down, you lower your eyes. How much do you like to be pitied, on a scale from one to ten? I know my answer: zero!
01 | Pity creates hierarchy
At eye level? Definitely not. Pitiful looks have a clear direction - from top to bottom. While it feels quite good to show pity, it feels uncomfortable to receive it. Anyone who has been the target of pity knows the nasty feeling; because whoever receives it, obviously does not know how to help themselves, is powerless, incapable of acting, defenseless, a recipient of charity. Whatever they look like (deeds, words, even coins). Those who feel pity express the following: I am here where it is good, and you are there where it is bad. It is precisely this rating that creates the gradient.
02 | Pity judges
The poor boy! That's terrible! That must be terrible! Pity gives people the victim-stamp; even to those who aren't or don't want to be. At this point at the latest, the great weakness of pity in contrast to empathy becomes apparent. Because pity is only a view through your own glasses, brings your own worldview into play and is quite little interested in the reality of the other person. This, by the way, reveals very nicely where our own fears lie. You can imagine how often in my life I have been (and will be) labeled with “No arms and legs! What a bad handicap!”. I live an active, adventurous, and wonderfully fast life. I enjoy every day; I can do whatever I want to do. Is more possible? Am I the one being disabled? Or is the perspective of those disabled who can only imagine the joy of life in bodies with limbs?
03 | Pity increases suffering
Those who show pity reduce an acute need, alleviate pain, and free themselves from a burden. It's a patch that doesn't cure anything though. But it doesn't offer any solutions. When a child stands on the 3-meter board crying because they are so afraid to jump, pity will say: "Come down, you don't have to jump, stop crying". Then, fear retains its power, the child the fear of the jump and it receives no support to develop a self-consistent and wholesome strategy to take the leap - and to grow with this leap and above all the joy of the achievement it could have. Pity cements helplessness because it denies others self-efficacy.
Please don't get me wrong: Of course, I don't want you to force the child off the 3-meter board into the water. By no means!
Start crying if you’re in fear
Instead of pity, we can offer the child compassion, empathie and support. Because unlike pity, compassion relates to the other person while maintaining eye level. Pity cannot bear other emotions, it wants to wipe away tears, preferably quickly. Compassion understands why the other person is crying and why these tears are appropriate and justified (e.g. fear of jumping). Compassion is human, so it can withstand the other's emotions, literally stand by and say openly “Yes, go ahaed and howl when you are scared, because that is normal. And when you've cried, we talk about options”. Compassion can accept what is.
Compassion is an enabler. The ability to perceive the reality of feelings and thoughts of another person prevents evaluative plaques and creates space for possible solutions. This is where respect and dignity reside; trust in the ability of every person to find the right path for themselves. Compassion supports the self-efficacy of another person and thus it contributes to growth, development, and a sense of achievement, which the other can embrace and therefore enjoy.
It does not show greatness to pull potatoes out of the fire for someone; it is presumptuous to judge someone else's situation as "bad, gruesome, terrible"; it is sad when we slow down the development of others because our pity cannot withstand the pain of their growth.
So if there's anything we can all stop doing right now, it's pitying others. The best life is rich in empathy and appreciation - for yourself and the world around you.
Pity or encouragement? What decision will you make from now on?