Idiot Compassion

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Spoiling with too much Kindness

Parents and grandparents who are too kind to children spoil their character. Doing whatever one wants, and being given everything that one asks for, is not the way for children to learn and grow up. They should be taught the values of contentment, gratitude, respect, and frugality from a young age. As my mother once said, when I asked for another apple: “Apples don’t grow on trees.” Well, we know that what she meant was: “The money to buy apples does not grow on trees.”

The current generation of computer and Internet users expect everything to be tailored to suit their demands.  Software developers cannot possibly satisfy everyone. Even free software or nearly free software is not good enough for them. If something is not to their liking, instead of simply requesting improvements, or asking for temporary solutions, they make demands such as: “This software is unusable, until this feature is added, I will go back to using my old software.” Of course, such threats are empty. If their old software was perfect, why are they trying out something else?

The problem lies between the keyboard and the chair. Negativity breeds dissatisfaction, and obstructs the learning process.

Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity

Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.

And here’s the kicker: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus — an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary, especially when you consider that it’s one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s. (Travis Bradberry)

Vivaldi’s Horrible Bookmarking System

“The one thing stopping me from using Vivaldi as my main browser is the horrible bookmarking system that I simply can’t and don’t want to use, coupled with the fact that I can’t import my existing bookmarks although the latter wouldn’t make me use Vivaldi as my main browser, without the simple system as well.” (Alviv)

The above complaint is typical. A new user does not know how to import bookmarks, nor how to add them via the icon in the address bar or keyboard shortcut. Rather than asking how it can be done, he/she just complains.  After a couple of users respond with sarcasm, a moderator edits their replies, fixes the thread title, and locks the thread. This is idiot compassion at work. The fault lies with the new user, who failed to ask before complaining, and threatened not to use the software unless the perceived, but non-existent, faults were fixed.

Constructive Criticism

Since everything is imperfect, everything can also be improved, given time, money, patience, and resourcefulness. Good people respond well to constructive criticism. Even bad people do sometimes. Almost no one likes harsh criticism that is unjustifiable, unfair, untrue, or simply the expression of someone’s negativity.

Did the Buddha Criticise Anyone?

It is true that the Buddha never slandered or abused anyone. He was completely free from jealousy and ill-will. However, he certainly did say some things that were displeasing to others. When he started teaching the Dhamma, the Brahmins were well-established as the “Church” of the day. They held that the Brahmins or priests were a superior caste to workers, farmers, merchants, and nobles. The Buddha ridiculed them in many ways, both in private with his loyal disciples and in public when non-believers were present. They lost most of their support, and conspired to discredit the Buddha by hiring a prostitute to pretend she had had an affair with him, then hiring some thugs to murder her.

The Buddha also criticised evil-doers among his own followers and constantly admonished his loyal disciples not to be heedless. He said, “Ānanda, I will not treat you [gently] as a potter treats an unbaked pot. I will instruct and admonish you repeatedly [robustly if necessary]. The sound core will stand the test.”

A basic assumption in Buddhism is that living beings are imperfect. They have defects rooted in greed, ill-will, and delusion. A Buddha, or Fully Awakened One, is a human being who began his career as a Bodhisatta many aeons ago, and cultivated spiritual perfections to achieve Buddhahood.

When Siddhattha Gotama was born, he was still an unenlightened Bodhisatta. Although already free from the vast majority of human defects shared by ordinary folk, he was still not a Buddha. He left the comfort of his palace, and meditated strenuously for six years to achieve perfection. Thereafter, he became a Buddha, and spent the remainder of his life teaching to others the meditation method that he had discovered for himself under the Bodhi tree.

Those who have faith in the Buddha’s teaching may become lay disciples, monks, or nuns. They become trainees who willingly undertake the discipline prescribed by the Buddha to train the mind, leading the practitioner towards perfection.

The Buddha would encourage his disciples with kindness and admonish them with harshness when necessary to remove their faults. If they did not respond to instruction, he would stop speaking to them. For a disciple this was the ultimate punishment. It is a spiritual death to refuse admonishment from one’s teachers and fellow monks or nuns. (See the Kesi Sutta).


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