25 July 2014 - QA 6

Dear Gurudev, I find that very often people take advantage of me. For a while it seems okay, but then it makes me angry that they are just walking all over me. Where do I draw the line? If I resist I often feel guilty that I’m being selfish. How can I differentiate between self respect and ego?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:

Now you are mixing up too many things up.
First of all, you should know when a person is taking advantage of you and when you have to be compassionate. This is like asking me how to balance a bicycle. Just balance! I can’t say if you fall to the right, push over to the left! No, balance like how you would ride a bicycle.

If people are taking advantage of you, put your foot down and say no more. Where you need to help, there you help them. It’s not self respect issues all the time, but you should not be vulnerable to people taking advantage of you as well.
If someone is in need of help it’s okay to help, but someone is unduly asking help from you all the time then you should say 'No, it won’t work'. Our compassion should always be accompanied by wisdom.

I was in the California Bay Area recently. Our AOL volunteers came there very enthusiastically to tell me that they fed thousands of homeless people and that they wanted to do it on a regular basis. I refused and I asked them to stop. They were shocked because they thought I would be pleased listening to the service they had done.

I said, 'No, I appreciate you did it this once but no more. Look at those people, they are not old or invalid people. These are strong men and women who can work and earn their bread. If you keep giving them food like that, while they are sitting on the roadside or in the homeless shelter, they will keep on eating and enjoying and they won’t do anything. You are spoiling them'.
So I said no, this is not compassion but misled compassion. Compassion would be to instead teach them bhastrika (a breathing technique taught in Art Of Living programs) and do some skills training for them.

Labour is not available these days; there is lack of drivers, construction workers, and many other areas. People should do some hard work. If they are invalid or very aged then definitely they need to be helped, but not someone who is in their youth and quite strong. Otherwise we are cultivating a wrong culture.
Compassion should always be accompanied with wisdom. Wisdom is knowing whom to give, where to give, what to give, how to give.