View Full Version : A question on compassion, suffering, and doing the right thing

08 Jan 12, 15:45
My question is--if being compassionate and not causing additional suffering to someone is right, at what point does my own personal suffering in the situation matter? I have read that if something does not bring you joy or peace, to let it go.

Recently I had a major falling out with a very dear friend and I am having trouble knowing if I did the right thing in my actions. For 6 years now I have listened to her for hours and hours (often neglecting my family's own needs) in an effort to counsel her. She has been in constant crisis since I met her and always has an excuse as to why she won't seek help or let go of a negative situation. She has alienated herself from friends and family and has lost 3 husbands, countless boyfriends and friends because of her behavior. She is a chaos addict in my opinion and is admittedly schizophrenic and narcissistic. It was a one-sided friendship as she never asked me about my life or what was going on with me. We only talked about her. If she did ask me about myself, it was only in reference to her issues--not out of general care or concern for me. I listened patiently and compassionately for several years but it caused great stress every time I talked to her. She would keep me on the phone for hours at a time even if I told her I had to go.

I felt as though she was using me as a free counselor. My friend would ask my opinion and advice on things, only to do the exact opposite of what I suggested. Then later, she would call and ask me why things were going to bad--wanting me to help her "analyze" the situation. I never felt I could tell her the honest truth because she would get defensive and lash out at me.

Example--I told her not to date a man because he was a homeless methamphetamine addict. She then travelled across the country with him and married him in a handfasting ceremony. During that year she called me all the time to ask why he was abusing her and disappearing for days on end. I wanted to say "I told you not to do that" but I never did.

I suggested mantras and a mala, but she said that was not for her. I gave her the mantras and offered to make her a mala. She refused. Then later she paid a spiritual healer to suggest the same thing and suddenly it was helping her.

A few days ago we were having the usual go-round and I told her the truth (to let go of the abusive husband), which she didn't want to hear. She immediately attacked my devotion to my own husband and child (a cheap shot meant to hurt me) which instantly forced 6 years of pent up frustration to come flooding out. I didn't say anything intentionally to hurt her, but I told her everything that had been on my mind and I never could say before. It was as if another power took over and I could not stop it. I was absolutely done with her and the chaos she spreads. She accused me of beating her up and we haven't spoken since. I have blocked her from contacting me by phone or email for fear of what she will say just to hurt me.

Did I do the right thing? Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks and Namaste! :hands:

08 Jan 12, 17:21
Hello 13greenpixies,

It is important to consider that one can not free from suffering other people. The responsibility of suffering is for each person.

It looks like you have been a wonderful friend showing your best skills to advice her.

We all have limits at helping people. Even professional therapists have limits and we have to be clear about this.

Your advices have been given with outstanding compassion toward her suffering but seems that your friend has to realize that she is the only one that has to free herself form suffering, look for professional help and dedicate effort for her healing.

Your story has touched me because I constantly found my self in such troubles always trying to help people with the Buddha teachings.

The results have been quite similar to what you have experienced.

I have lost some friends because of that. We try to help people and show them the Dhamma. We all are learning. We are not fully enlightened so we have shortcomings.

There is a point where we can not go further trying to help people and what is important is our own learning toward awakening because the teachings of Buddha are about a personal commitment.

You did you best. That is a sign of compassion and loving kindness toward others suffering but we have limitations.

Don't worry. I think it was a good decision to take a healthy distance from your friend.

She has to deal with her personal problems and to be responsible about them. That is her task, not yours.

IMO, you did the right thing...


08 Jan 12, 17:47
Hi Pixies,

In addition to Kaarine's advice, I'll offer you my own thoughts.

I think when one finds onself in these sort of circumstances its good to be as patient, kind and helpful as possible - and some people benefit from another person just being a good listener.

However, you do need to make clear boundaries about not neglecting your own family in the process.

If you become friends again and you feel your friend needs professional counselling, then very gently suggest that to her.

When we practice loving kindness and compassion, we also save some for ourselves and accept the fact that while we're on the path, we sometimes make mistakes. Its not always possible to provide all the right answers for other peoples lives.

Can I suggest that you investigate Metta practice, which will be of benefit to you and also to the people you interact with.

Here's a very short video explaining it.


There's also a trascript of a talk 'Universal Loving Kindness' at the link


with kind wishes,

Aloka ;D

08 Jan 12, 17:58
Thank you all for the wonderful responses! I feel better about the situation now. It will just take some time to get over it completely.

I did get a response through email although it's not showing up in the thread now. Someone asked what qualified me to diagnose her as schizophrenic. I did not diagnose her as anything. She came to those conclusions after years of intermittent counselling. I'm not sure if she was ever officially diagnosed.

Thanks again! Namaste!

09 Jan 12, 02:06
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The Beginners Forum is a place to welcome and advise newcomers about Buddhism. Please abstain from making tough personal remarks - inappropriate posts may be deleted.

09 Jan 12, 03:40
Thank you Kaarine! Namaste. :)

09 Jan 12, 10:28
Hi Pixies,

Isn't it tough to deal with those in constant crisis? Long term it is virtually impossible to do the right thing as in my experience the crisis seeker personality isn't ready to solve their problems. I've been on and off friends with a similar type of person. It is so hard to maintain a relationship. You have done amazingly well to have been a source of support for as long as you have.

I know that it's hard to feel good about a situation where all your thoughts have poured out and this potentially hurt someone. Perhaps it will do her some good in the future? Perhaps it was inevitable as every relationship that a crisis seeker has comes to this point? With my friend, I no longer try and "fix" I just listen. I have set clear and solid boundaries around the relationship. I repeatedly suggest counselling.

Good luck!

09 Jan 12, 11:36
Hello 13greenpixies,

I think your story is a great example how nice/compassionate people like you can experience suffering. Even good Karma is "conditional" hence the Buddha recommended us to go beyond good and evil (beyond Karma whether ist white or black) if we want to acheive real happiness and bring our suffering to an end.

Bundokji :hands:

09 Jan 12, 12:31
Hello 13greenpixies,

I think your story is a great example how nice/compassionate people like you can experience suffering. Even good Karma is "conditional" hence the Buddha recommended us to go beyond good and evil (beyond Karma whether ist white or black) if we want to acheive real happiness and bring our suffering to an end.

Bundokji :hands:


09 Jan 12, 14:26
Thanks so much Fee and Bundokji! I do feel much better about the situation now and I know that in time, my friend will realize what I've been telling her all along--that in the end, it's up to us alone to change our situations. We cannot rely on anyone else to hold our hands or make decisions for us. I'm so grateful for all of the positive responses to my question! This is a wonderful community. :hands: