Being Compassionate is a Selfish Thing to Do

Image: Stuart Miles /
I just released a book on coping with bullies called The Bully Vaccine. Part of the advice I give in the book is to feel compassion for bullies. I realize it is a hard thing to do and even harder to explain to a child. When someone is being mean to you, the last thing you want to do is feel sorry for them.

The thing is, I don’t tell people to feel sorry for bullies to help the bully. I give this advice to be compassionate because it helps you as the victim.  Being compassionate with the jerks of the world is something you do for you. It’s actually rather selfish.

Feeling compassion for jerks helps you in two main ways.  First, it helps you to not be bothered by them. It’s easy to get upset when someone is calling you names and being mean. But once you realize how pathetic they are, you stop being upset and you start feeling REALLY sorry for the name caller. And yeah, that just makes them even more mad. That’s their problem not yours. Once you feel compassion for them, all their taunts, threats and name calling just bounce right off of you. It’s like having an emotional force field. The more the bully rails against you, the more pathetic they seem to you. Your compassion isn’t helping the bully, but it is definitely helping you.

The other reason to feel compassion is because in order to get a bully to leave you alone, you need to stop reinforcing the bully. It’s nearly impossible to do that if you are emotionally invested in what’s happening. Feeling compassion for a bully allows you to respond to them in an emotionally neutral way – which is essential if you are going to get them to leave you alone. Again, it isn’t going to make the bully a nicer person, they will most likely direct their anger to another victim. But being compassionate will help you not be a victim and again, that’s good for you.

Compassion is a powerful emotion. It helps you focus outside of yourself and onto the needs of others. And paradoxically enough, this outward focus is REALLY beneficial to you as the practitioner of compassion. Being compassionate really is a selfish thing to do. But selfish in a good way.

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