Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cruel To Be Kind

In the context of a Korea discussion, neo linked to an AISH article, Cruel To Be Kind. It describes simply but eloquently why destroying evil is perhaps the greatest act of kindness possible.
The classic example is the story of King Saul and King Agag. Saul was ordered by none other than the Almighty Himself to kill all the citizens of the nation of Amalek. But Saul had compassion on their leader. He spared his life. And in that one extra day allotted him, Agag fathered a child who was the ancestor of one of the Jewish people's most vitriolic and hateful enemies in history, the villain of the Purim story, Haman.
I have been reflecting recently on the dangers of compassionate people. Not of compassion itself - compassion is a good thing when it is servant and not master. One can have compassion and still be strict, or even severe.

I have spent many of my days with Compassionate People. The Human Service professions are awash with them; churches attract them; my early days as a coffee-house folksinging socialist were entirely too formative of my previous political beliefs. Yet even in those dense atmospheres, there are some who develop especial reputations for compassion. I am thinking of a type: elderly men who are beloved for their gentle wisdom and concern for others, known for their ability to inspire others to greater kindness. I have known a dozen such, but am focusing on five. I have seen the dark underside of their compassion - their need to be seen as the most compassionate person present, and the trail of good people feeling inadequate left in their wake. All of them were so exceptionally skilled at this that their dangerousness was only apparent if the mask by accident slipped (momentarily - covered fast as light), so that one was able to step back.

They were all basically kindly men who did much good. The undermining of those around them can only be seen if one looks specifically - at which point it leaps out, and you wonder why you never noticed before. The wounded they leave behind do not blame them. As they are aspiring Compassionate People, they blame their bad feeling on themselves.

There is a story in this, but I am very unsure I can write it. No - I am quite sure I do not have the skill. But scraps of it may be salvageable. I am still sorting this out. I am thinking of at least one line that should come near the end.
So you are telling me that this man's children and all the best people who worked for him spent their entire lives feeling inadequate, but he was a compassionate man?

1 comment:

David Foster said...

A rather opposite sort of person, described by Peter Drucker:

"In every successful organization there is one boss who does not like people, does not help them, does not get along with them. Cold, unpleasant, demanding, he often teaches and develops more men than anyone else. He commands more respect than the most likeable man ever could. He demands exacting workmanship of himself as well as of his men. He sets high standards and expects that they will be lived up to. He considers only what is right and never who is right. And, though usually himself a man of brilliance, he never rates intellectual brilliance above integrity in others."