Compassion as a response to a personal attack

 A friend of mine is experiencing a personal attack online. He is struggling to respond in a way that doesn't make it worse. So, how should we deal with online smears on our character? 

For the record, I've been accused of all those things and had my reputation smeared, and I'm ok with that, because I know the attacks didn't have much to do with me. I don't talk about some of the things I've gone through because I like to focus on the positive, but I've definitely been attacked and had people attempt to ruin my reputation.

Here is the note they sent me when I tried to remind them to respond with their better nature, with compassion.

"I'm strongly pro-compassion. And I certainly think some of the pushback I got was just as you said. But if someone posted that you are, say, a bigot, a vicious open sexist and racist and told hundreds of people on another continent, people you don't even know, that you're just such a vicious open sexist and racist and that you should be shunned at all costs or flushed like a turd, I'm guessing you wouldn't treat them with compassion or conclude that it had nothing to do with you."

My response?  

Well - that's totally happened to me. I'd be surprised if you haven't heard horrible rumors about me 10 ish years ago through the grapevine because of it. I didn't view it as a problem when it was happening and I didn't respond with anger or fight back because I didn't need to despite the active campaign to discredit me in certain circles of which you are a part. I got through that fine and my reputation is still good and at no point did I get angry or fight back. I wasn't being victimized. Someone in a lot of pain, made me the target of their anger. It wasn't about me. It was about them and the pain they were in at the time. The person in question clearly needed to vent. 

I've had random anonymous people post what I think are insane reviews of my books that have nothing to do with the book and everything to do with what appears to be a personal vendetta against me.

There is also video of me when I was young in a conversation about race where I was TOTALLY wrong and had no idea. I know the video is used as an educational tool about how white fragility prevents actual discussion on race - and I have zero problem with that because - that's exactly what it was and what I did. And I didn't bother getting upset at the time they started using it which was immediately after it happened, because I knew it wasn't going to impact me in real life. I'm sure if I ever ran for office, that video would surface again and I still wouldn't be bothered by it because, I was text book in denial to be honest. I have learned a lot since then and can recognize the mistakes I made at the time as mistakes. 

Then there are all the personal attacks in the various places I have worked as people try to discredit me that I have weathered. I literally was accused of hitting on a donor's son inappropriately and of wearing inappropriate clothing to a cocktail party. These attacks were PERSONAL and done by colleagues, and were, quite honestly - disgusting. I didn't get mad or respond with anger at the time because I knew those attacks weren't really about me. They were about a person who had lost power in the organization fighting back in an undignified way. Handling myself with dignity and compassion is why I won that battle - and it was a battle. 

So - to answer your question - NO - I would not respond as you are responding and I know I wouldn't because it's happened multiple times throughout my life and I got through each incident well and with my reputation intact by responding with compassion. I know from experience that it's not necessary to attack as a way to defend yourself. 

I also know that the one time I did attack and try to defend myself, I prevented myself from listening and learning to something hugely important, which was that a) I was wrong and b) the pain other people were in was more important than my discomfort at listening to them tell me about their pain. 

Why on earth would you care that 100 people on another continent have been lied to about you? Behave with dignity and prove the lies wrong. Don't destroy your truth with the hands you are using to defend it.

What was happening?

This whole situation started because they posted something that caused a lot of people, me included, pain. It had to do with gender identity and discrimination that people of certain genders and particularly people whose gender doesn't fit in a binary, experience. His post was well intentioned, but tone deaf. So, people responded by expressing their pain.  He responded by acting as if he was under attack and it wasn't helping him. 

My advice for anyone dealing with something similar

The correct response to someone sharing pain with you is to acknowledge that pain and show compassion. The incorrect response to someone expressing pain is to get mad at them for not acknowledging how good a person you are. Their pain predates you. All you have to do is acknowledge their pain and NOT make it about you. 

The worst thing you can say is that your own pain is worse than their pain. That is what Donna Hicks describes as a dignity violation pissing match. Your dignity has been violated, so has the dignity of the other person. It doesn't matter whose dignity violation is worse. Both of you have had your dignity violated. 

The reality is - no one can take your dignity away from you. YOU either act with dignity or you don't. The correct response to someone being in pain, is to show them compassion. 

There is a reason compassion is central to a humanist viewpoint and why every spiritual leader and philosopher throughout history teaches it as a response. By exercising compassion with people who are actively trying to hurt us, we not only protect ourselves, we re-affirm our own dignity at the same time. Mostly, if it turns out we were at fault, acknowledging our fault and correcting our mistakes helps us fix the problem instead of making it worse.

If you want to learn how I do this and have been doing this and being successful at it - using compassion, let me teach you. I have a 6 hour course called living made simpler. I have one whole lesson devoted to actively applying compassion to difficult situations and how exactly it works to help you cope.

Thoughts on Supportive Leadership Culture

According to the Michigan State University “An organization’s culture is responsible for creating the kind of environment in which the business is managed, and has a major impact on its ultimate success or failure.” What kind of culture has your organization adopted and how has it impacted your business?

I strive to create a supportive culture, where we support one another as humans first and colleagues.  This is also what I strive for in all my interactions.  I find that trust is the single most important factor in how effectively I work with others and how well we collaborate to solve problems.  When trust is absent, effective problem solving is absent too.  Instead of solving our collective problems, we end up viewing our colleagues as the problem that needs to be solved. This takes our focus away from the problems our business is trying to solve and puts our energy into things that don't move us forward. 

I find I can get more done in less time and with less energy expended, in a trusting environment. It's also WAY more pleasant to work in an environment where social trust is present. I don't have anxiety about my colleagues. I know we will support one another and I know that because trust has been established.

Richard Branson once famously stated “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.” and Stephen R. Covey admonishes to “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. What’s your take on creating a great organizational culture?

I agree with both Branson and Covey. It's basically a version of the golden rule. How I teach it is a little different though.

Your life is made easier when the people around you are ethical, compassionate and responsible.  Your life is made harder when the people around you are missing even one of these attributes. For instance, if someone is ethical, and responsible, but not compassionate, it will make your life more difficult. If someone is compassionate and responsible but not ethical, it will make your life more difficult. If they are ethical and compassionate but not responsible, it will make your life more difficult.  

  • If you want your life to be easier, you need to surround yourself with ethical, compassionate and responsible people.
  • The ONLY way to get ethical, compassionate and responsible people to want to work with you, is to be ethical, compassionate and responsible yourself.
  • Because if you are not ethical, compassionate and responsible, the good ethical, compassionate and responsible people of the world will want nothing to do with you.  

I consider this the true holy trinity of how we should strive to behave. Be the best person you can be in all your interactions with all the people you meet and you will find that the good people of the world will seek you out and want to work with you and it will not only make your life easier, it will improve your corporate culture and your ability to get things done effectively, ethically and responsibly.

Learn More:

If you want to learn how to create more supportive workplace cultures as a leader - consider taking my Humanistic Leadership Training Program and becoming a Certified Humanistic Leadership Professional.

What does success mean to me?

 As a solopreneur, my definition of what means a successful business has evolved over time.  What do I really want to get out of this business?  Answer, it’s complicated. 

Certainly, money is nice. But I’m fortunate to not rely on the income from this business.  Not loosing money is success.  Making money is bonus for me.

Another metric is impact. I teach how to stop bullying using behavioral science. So – success is – how many people have learned these techniques. This knowledge can change the world. So – am I changing the world? Or just a small part of it?  I’ve certainly helped individuals, but I’ve also NOT had the global impact I want to make. So – not as successful as I'd like to be there – yet.

A third metric for me is – travel. Being a recognized expert that people want to pay to bring to an interesting place for a talk – letting me experience that place – is success for me. Being invited to speak in India or South Africa and having the expenses paid for so that I don’t lose money, success!  I’ll gladly comp my talk if the travel expenses are paid for to go someplace interesting.

Having a lifestyle that is balanced?  Priceless. Every time I decide I need to take a day off or that I need to do something like – work the polls for an election – and a I can because I work for myself – reminds me that – this was the right move for me. I have work life balance. That is success too. I feel extraordinarily bad for people who don’t have the flexibility to take time for themselves. This is the greatest gift that I’ve given myself. More than makes up for the lost income I could be making if I worked for someone else.

Success isn’t necessarily about money, though money is important. Success to me is about the life style I get and whether my social goals are met.

Why am I sharing this? Because to be a good leader means being clear about what your objectives are. If you don't know what it is your are trying to build, you can't get others to help you build it. Imagine if someone tried to build a building like the Empire State Building, without detailed blueprints. 

Figure out what your objectives are both, for your work and personally what you want to get out of the work. That clarify will help ensure that as you lead people to whatever the work goals are, you do so in a way that is fully holistically humanistic. 

And yes, that photo is of me in India on a business trip. I gave a key note at a Happy Workplace conclave. I made great friends and learned a lot at the same time. And yes, the Taj Mahal is worth seeing! 

If anyone wants to bring me to your country to give a talk, let me know. If I can be of any help with whatever work you have going on, let me know. Mostly, I measure success in work by how many people I help.  So let me help you. 

Visit my website for more information: 


Humanist Responses to religious language

 File this under, questions I get asked a lot. For non-religious, but well meaning people like Humanists, the question is, how to respond to well meaning religious people who say religious things that don't make sense to an atheist.

In this case, the question is, how to respond when someone says, "I'll pray for you." 

First - let me refer you to a post from 2014 - where I address the problem of "forced" prayer. 

And this - also from 2014 -

This one from 2009 -

And this from 2017 -

As I said, this comes up. A lot. It's an ongoing problem.  

Now for the question I was asked. And yes, I do accept questions you want me to answer and give you feedback on. Just be aware, it will be turned into a blog post though I will change names to protect the innocent when I do so.


I would love it if you would address this concern in your messages sometime...

I am surrounded by friends who are quite religious, who pray a lot and study their Bibles a lot. They talk about it quite a bit and I am not pushy about my beliefs... no problem. BUT when someone sends a text to the group about an illness in the family (for example) my friends start texting comments like: "I'll keep you in my prayers." And when they get better some of them take credit for the healing. BUT my question - I need a response that sounds caring but isn't a lie. I can't honestly say I'll pray for them since I don't believe it does a bit of good. However, I think knowing friends are praying for you is comforting in itself. Any way... if you can give ideas of a humanist way to respond to such texts, or in person, I'd be grateful.

If there's a class that you have that addresses this question, let me know and I'll take it! I am on your mailing list and enjoy reading your posts. B. R. - Retired Elementary Teacher and ex-Presbyterian current-Humanist


What I do – is what your instinct is – To let them know you will keep them in your thoughts. 
I’ve never had anyone get mad that I’m not praying for them. As you said, it's comforting for people to know you care and are in solidarity with them. So, I tend to say, I’ll keep you in my thoughts and I hope you get better soon. 

And alternate is - I'm so sorry this is happening. I'm hoping for the best for you.  Or some variation on that. 

Being Human means being in a community. And we need that community, especially when something is wrong. Expressing solidarity is a loving thing to do and it does help people to know that people care about them. 

When I think back on the things that people did that helped me the most, it was the acts of kindness. Knowing people are concerned, helps. It really does. So - express that in language that works for you that is heartfelt. 

And if the person needs more than just good thoughts, see if you can help them in other ways. When I lost my child, the single best thing people did, was bring us food. It's an act of kindness that is really practical. It meant, I didn't have to spend any mental energy on making food. I could just start my healing process. It's a good practical standby and helps make sure the person going through a tough time doesn't have to deal with meal planning in addition to everything else they have going on. Having someone help coordinate it so that they don't end up with a ton of meals all on the same day, but that they are spaced out - is a kindness as well. Also, hint, I make food and then portion it out into individual servings that can be frozen and taken out and microwaved and eaten. Why? Because someone did that for me once and it was helpful for me to have health meals made with love, that I didn't have to worry about spoiling.  (Ok - I'm crying now remembering how helpful and important this was to me). 

My point is - just be a good kind loving person and do your best to be in solidarity with people. All the things you did to show love and solidarity while in a religious group, work for a reason. And we non-religious should do them too. The important thing isn't the words used. It's the love that you share in solidarity.

Good luck. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...