Three Columns

Today we’re going to talk about the wisdom of balance.  This is also about the wisdom of knowing where to draw the line.  In our society, there is a big emphasis on compassion.  Much of this is false compassion and manipulating the society around the positive and moral and ethical feelings about compassion. It is a sort of shame-based power of political correctness.

Another way of looking at these societal questions, is the Tree of Life perspective, which has three columns.  The three columns represent gevurah, which is clarity, definition, discipline and boundaries; chesed, which is compassion; and tiferet or beauty, which is the balance between the two.  This is about drawing the line.  It’s very easy to emphasize the term compassion, in order to justify any action no matter how out of balance it is.  This can be applied politically as well as in many other examples. In couple dynamics, we can see this in the classic scenario of women who love too much.  There are books written about this.  Basically, it is about women who have been abused and they keep forgiving and going back.  They are falsely compassionate in the situation.  This is a classic co-dependent, guilt and shame based dynamic.  It cuts the gevurah part out of the situation.  In every healthy relationship there is a bottom-line.  All relationships that have successful intimacy will have a line that cannot be crossed.

When I work with couples who are preparing for marriage I ask them what are their bottom lines?  This helps them to be able to articulate these.  If you don’t honor the boundaries, you’re not honoring the gevurah part that is key.  True compassion has to do with feeling the oneness.  It also has to do with drawing lines and boundaries which creates situations where the other person can grow.  Gevurah offers clarity and order.  This is very important for a successful relationship, and also success in your life.

Let’s take this to the personal level.  A person can be falsely compassionate with oneself, allowing oneself to do things that take them more and more off track.  A healthy person needs to have a certain amount of discipline, this is gevurah.  A person can also be too judgmental with oneself.  Then you have to have more compassion.  So tiferet or beauty, is finding the balance.  Excess gevurah contracts.  Excess chesed may expand beyond a place where one becomes uncentered and ungrounded.  In life we have to always look at these factors to find that beauty, tiferet.

Tiferet is also symbolically the heart.  One needs to be very clear with oneself about the boundaries and the balances, so as not to undermine people by saying they aren’t being compassionate, when in fact they are being very compassionate but aren’t giving you what you want.  That is where we have a misuse of language to control the situation.  We see the use of other charged words, such as “you’re not in your dharma”, to also tip things in one’s favor.  These words can get abused.  In tiferet you are able to see the oneness, and through the oneness you are able to make decisions that are uplifting to the situation and uplifting the person.

We can see this play out in our social context, and how things have gotten off center.  Just last week a person who was an all -pro outside linebacker, which means he has worked very hard.  You don’t just do that on natural ability.  His son gets an award for participating in a competition.  This may look like it’s compassionate but there’s another side to it.  This is actually a non-compassionate thing to do because you’re undervaluing the person and encouraging them to be mediocre by giving him an award for just showing up.  It doesn’t tell the person that they can achieve by rising to the challenge.  In other words, if I you want a trophy, you have to earn it.  You have to exert yourself, study harder, practice harder, etc. in order to earn it.  That is a very important message.  False compassion is giving people a trophy for just showing up.  By giving everyone a trophy, they are devaluing everybody.  It does not encourage them to excel.  So as a society begins to become more mediocre, the compassion is such that mediocrity is okay and is rewarded. That is a serious problem.  This is why I call it false compassion because it is not encouraging people to reach their full, unique potential.  Instead, it undermines people.  That’s just an example of how false compassion weakens people and undermines who they are and devalues them.

In the Mayan games, if you were the loser you were put to death.  That is gevurah.  As a result, they got some pretty intense playing, but at the end of the day you don’t want to lose that game.  For us, that seems very severe.  Where’s the balance?  The art of spiritual life is finding the balance within yourself and in each situation where compassion and clarification, judgment, and boundary-setting are put into alignment and this brings beauty. So may everybody be blessed with this wisdom of beauty in their lives.