STEP THIRTEEN CONTINUED: We follow the principle that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. The witness of our lives is the only message we need to carry to others.
Instruction: Separate charisma from compassion.
Charismatic individuals make an impression on those they meet, but they don’t always use their charismatic personality in honorable ways. Compassionate people often speak slowly, softly, and might not seem to have a lot to say, but their message falls in line with spiritual principals such as love, forgiveness, peace, acceptance, and tolerance. A charismatic person might pound into your mind the concept that the sky is falling, and they are here to save you. A compassionate person might never darken your front door, but they might pay the balance of your check if you are short of money or offer you a smile when you are having a bad day. They don’t seek you out, but if your paths cross, your heart will be touched and your life changed. Compassionate people will not judge you. They will accept you with all your flaws, mistakes, and shortcomings. They recognize their own faults, and they recognize that others struggle in ways similar to, and sometimes different than, the ways in which they struggle.
Compassionate people lift us up. Charismatic people might bowl us over and make us feel that we’re not good enough and never will be. Charismatic people say “follow me, I’ll show you the way,” but compassionate people gather us together and say “let’s find our way together.” These comparisons are general in nature, and it’s certainly possible for someone to be charismatic and compassionate at the same time, but, generally speaking, the differences tend to hold true. Compassionate leaders are often considered humble, not self-serving, and they consider the interests of all individuals, not just the majority.
When a spiritual guide or teacher comes into our lives, we might not have a choice as to whether they are charismatic or compassionate, but if we know what to look for, we can be more discerning when it comes to who we are willing to let teach us. We can learn from both types, and both have strengths. We can also be damaged by a teacher who is unethical, and a compassionate teacher is less likely to cause further harm.
Consider the type of leader you are drawn to. Do you prefer the more entertaining speaker who is charismatic and engaging? If so, does that individual have a message with substance or is he or she telling you what you want to hear? Does she or he have compassion, and is that based on emotion or action?
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