Compassion is not the soft option
A polar bear can cover 50 meters in under 3 seconds
It lives with permanent hunger and is always on the hunt for food.
Sensibly, the prey of a polar bear will always try to escape – to run or swim away.
Myself and my two expedition team mates represented some 420,000 calories – that is enough to keep the polar bear happy for over 3 weeks.
We made a potentially fatal error of surprising a young male polar bear.
We stared at each other over 100 meters of badly broken sea ice. Stalemate!
With huge compassion we resolutely walked toward the polar bear.
Compassion made us attack a polar bear.
Compassion led us all to live.
Let me explain.
The Dalai Lama describes compassion as “empathy with positive action”. It is the definition I use in all my work and the foundation of compassionate leadership. (The empathy I talk about is understanding the other rather then necessarily emotionally feeling another’s pain, but that is another blog).
When you translate “understanding with positive action” into the principles of leadership you get the definition of compassionate leadership “securing the best for all”
The best for all in this situation was to stay alive.
To have killed the polar bear was unthinkable. I could not have lived with myself knowing that my vanity and indulgence of trespassing on their land led to the bear’s death.
And I was also reluctant to offer myself on the alter of bear survival – or my colleagues for that matter.
So, compassion – understanding with positive action
The bear was hungry
It can run much faster than I can ski
My colleagues could ski faster than me too
I had a gun – to be precise – Phil had the gun
To kill the bear would have been so totally and utterly wrong
Normally, the prey would try to escape and so trigger an instinctive hunt and chase response from the bear
With that understanding I acted positively
I did not kill it
I did not encourage it to kill me (or my mates)
We did something the bear was not expecting
We resolutely marched toward it!!
Un-nerved, the bear turned and walked away.
Facing the bear, we backed away.
We both went on our separate journeys.
We all lived to fight another day
Compassion let us live
What is your polar bear?
Your challenge that needs facing?
A threat that could harm you if ignored, but could harm you more if challenged in the wrong way?
You cannot run away and you cannot attack.
And nor should you do either.
Treat it with compassion
Firm and fair
Tough and kind
Through compassion we can all thrive
To watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nbos43OkAXY