Compassion And The Danger Of Messianic & Narcissistic Inflation

“Find someone who thinks he is alone and let him know that he is not.” ~ Mother Teresa

Central to the teachings of Buddhism is the idea that humans are trapped in samsara, the cycle of birth and death. Suffering inevitably comes with it, and every individual is going through some form of it.

Compassion is our genuine desire to wish that the individual is alleviated of that suffering. It is a very important spiritual quality and is at the core of anyone seeking enlightenment.

Compassion is an attitude of taking responsibility for helping others, serving others, and putting that into action without any selfish motivation.

~ Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs:  A Contemporary Guide To Awakening, p. 11

No selfish motivation.

That is what defines true and genuine compassion.

It is taking the appropriate course of action and being motivated solely by the desire to help and alleviate people from their suffering.

As with any teaching, it is in the interpretation where we have differing views. It is in the application of the teaching and its [mis]interpretation where, I feel, the ‘danger’ lies.

There was a time when I had some apprehension — and confusion, admittedly — about this definition.

And the white knight rescues the damsel in distress….. Image Source:

And the white knight rescues the damsel in distress….. Are you the ‘white knight’ or the ‘damsel in distress’ or both? Image Source:

I’ve had this tendency to rescue — a disempowering habit that I know is also shared by many, especially those in the helping and healing profession.

I had been wary that the wrongful interpretation of this teaching on compassion would compel those with this rescuer tendency to come instinctually to someone’s rescue and save them from their pain. This, regardless if ‘rescuing’ or ‘saving’ them is for the suffering individual’s soul advancement or not.

Admittedly, that’s how I practiced it. That’s how I thought I was embodying compassion.

Am I helping and empowering them or am I enabling?

I’ve come to realize that when we immediately come to someone’s rescue and remove them from their experience of the pain, we may, in truth, be enabling them. Especially when we do this unconsciously — and more so, for self-serving and self-centered reasons. We think we are helping when we are, in fact, depriving the individual who’s in pain the opportunity to grow from their painful experience.

I’ve come to realize that while compassion means the desire to alleviate someone from their suffering — and that can, by all means, also apply to one’s self — it doesn’t necessarily imply that we must take action to remove the person who is suffering from their painful experience. Not each and every time, at least.

It’s called tough love.

I’ve come to realize that there are times that an individual needs to go through the pain to master a learning. It is the only way that their soul will evolve. Going through the pain is an essential step toward their self-mastery.

I’ve learned that there are times that we need to step back and allow the suffering individual to go through their experience. We need to toughen up and not give in to our desire to help — even if it’s well-intended.

Sometimes, when we leave them on their own, it is what will push them to tap from within themselves and discover what will help them deal with their pain. When they’re on their own, they’re ‘forced’ to dig into their bag of tools, find their inner strength and courage and discover their own course of action.

Sometimes, we need to let go of our desire to control the situation and its outcome knowing that there is a Universal Loving Force that’s orchestrating and guiding us in how Life unfolds — including painful experiences.

Sometimes, people need to go through pain before they attain enlightenment. Sometimes going through the darkest of moments and ending up in the darkest of places is what pushes them to seek for Light. It doesn’t have to be that way all the time. Sometimes, though, that’s what it takes.

I’ve come to realize that there are times when I mustn’t interfere with the Divine unfolding of Life — especially of someone else’s. After all, I can never truly know what factors are at play in someone else’s life and experience — even and especially those that appear to me as agonizing.

But it feels good to help and be of service…..

Sure it does.

As I began to overcome my rescuer tendency and address my messianic complex, though, I’ve learned the importance of being very clear on what my intention is for ‘helping.’

What is really behind that ‘feeling good?’

Do I feel good when I’m able to shed light on someone’s dilemma for the sole reason that they are alleviated of their pain?

Or do I feel good because I was able to prove my superiority over them?  That I know better?

Does feeling good feed my ‘ego’ and an inner void, or is feeling good coming out of my ‘true essence’?

The greatest threat to compassion is the temptation to succumb to fantasies of moral superiority.” 

~ Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs:  A Contemporary Guide To Awakening, p. 89.

Ahhh….The danger of messianic and narcissistic inflation.

And as to my previous post, might that be the energy behind the resort owner’s suggestion after she learned that I had injuries from my practice of yoga? She told me to ‘stop practicing yoga’ — with a distinct tone of authority (superiority perhaps?).

How do we know that the situation calls for us to step in and do or suggest something? How do we know that the most appropriate response is to simply let the person be to their journey and experience of pain? How do we know that we may, in fact, be interfering with their growth process? Is there a way for us to know that we are depriving them of the opportunity to evolve and become wiser from going through their suffering?

I’m not referring to emergency cases or accidents. I think it goes without saying that the appropriate response is to take action. We must rise to the occasion and not simply observe and let people be on their own. I’m referring to ‘non-emergency’ life situations.

I’m still overcoming my rescuer tendency and messianic complex. I have yet to fully embody compassion.

What I know for sure….

Discernment, selfawareness, and truthfulness are what will allow us to be clear on what the appropriate response is when we encounter someone who is suffering.

What I also know is whether we need to take action, including offering advice or giving any form of suggestion, unsolicited or otherwise, or simply witness and hold space for the other, we can still — and must — practice compassion.

Our truest desire and only motivation to alleviate the other of their suffering must be because we want them to be relieved of the anguish. We have no selfish motivation. We have no agenda other than that which serves the best interest of the other.

The balanced rescuer is sensitive to the needs of those around her and practices altruism for its own sake.”

~ Mary C Lamia Ph.D.

What motivates you to help others? How have you embodied compassion? Have you practiced ‘tough love’?

😀 😀

# # #

Copyright © 2011-2015 Nadine Marie V. Niguidula, M.A. and Aligning With Truth


About NadineMarie (Aligning With Truth)

I find much joy & fulfillment in sharing my experiences & insights through writing & blogging. I created the site, ALIGNING WITH TRUTH as a virtual center for healing where I share my thoughts & reflections, as well as the tools & resources that are helping me as I move along the path of awakening & coming home to the Self. As I live in joy & align with Truth, I AM shining my Light which is how I contribute to the planetary & humanity ascension. Brightest & Magical Blessings!!! Om Shanti. Namaste...💗💖💜Nadine Marie💜💖💗
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8 Responses to Compassion And The Danger Of Messianic & Narcissistic Inflation

  1. saymber says:

    I’ve come to realize that when we immediately come to someone’s rescue and remove them from their experience of the pain, we may, in truth, be enabling them. – ABSOLUTELY true. I’m always having to relearn this lesson. By stopping someone from experiencing something we are inhibiting their journey of self discovery. We can give MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) to such a person but can’t take it for them. I’ve been drained more than once trying to help people. great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I can so relate to that feeling of being drained. Yes, we certainly cannot — and mustn’t — do it for others or walk their path for them. I’m also having to relearn this lesson and need constant reminders along the way.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      Blessed be. 😀 ⭐ ❤ ⭐ 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m learning to back away a bit. I still care and will offer help when it’s requested, but I’m less involved in trying to help someone who doesn’t seem ready for change. I assume that when the suffering becomes intense enough, most people will change on their own or finally seek help from others. I think it’s possible to have compassion and wish the best for someone without getting overly involved in their suffering by letting them decide what is the next step they would like to take. Some people might never change and continue suffering, and it’s their right to choose whatever path they desire.


  3. Hi Nadine Marie,
    This quote from your post reminds me of a poem I wrote…
    “Sometimes, people need to go through pain before they attain enlightenment. Sometimes going through the darkest of moments and ending up in the darkest of places is what pushes them to seek for Light. It doesn’t have to be that way all the time. Sometimes, though, that’s what it takes.”

    Here’s a link to a video of that poem…


  4. Shawna says:

    Awesome! Thank you for sharing. I’m going to share this one on Facebook. I’ve been missing you. Something was pulling me back to your blog and now I know why. The way you teach and write is so healing and good for me. I love you! Namaste’

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re most welcome Shawna, and thank you for your kind words and for sharing this. It warms my heart when I’m told that what I write and share is helpful to others. 🙂 Much L ❤ ve to you too Shawna! Namaste…Blessed be. 😀 ⭐ ❤ ⭐ 😀


  5. Pingback: Rescuing: An Expression Of Victim Consciousness | Aligning With Truth

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