December 28 : Pleasing People vs. Having Compassion

There is a big difference between pleasing people and having compassion for them. We often get these things very confused and think that if we have compassion for somebody, then our job is to make them happy. When we are trying to please people because we want their approval, there is no space in our mind for compassion for them at that moment because our attention is on ourselves, anxiously worrying about whether we can do what we think they think we should do. That is a completely dead-end road in terms of Dharma and practising in our lives.

If we are always trying to second-guess people, to figure out what they want and what they need, we are not really being genuine with them. What they want or what they need sometimes is not actually what they want and need if we are going to have compassion for them. It is totally impossible to please other people in whatever we do; they are never going to be completely happy with it. The whole thing of trying to please people, win their approval, and get them to like us, is basically focused on ourselves.

When we have this kind of mind, then there is very little space for compassion. With compassion, you see the situation of somebody else, their being in samsara, their being under the control of their afflictions and karma. We have compassion for them, and what we bring to them is not our song and dance, the show of or trying to please them, but just who we are, a compassionate presence. When we have genuine compassion, our actions become a bit more spontaneous. Somehow, people seem to benefit from them more than when we are trying so hard. It is something to think about, this difference between pleasing and winning people’s approval, having concern for them, and the kind of compassion that the Buddha talked about.

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