Consider the Consequences

Cathy Brownfield

Compassion. Do you know what it is? Do you have it? Have you experienced it?


Merriam-Webster defines it as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” You care about the troubles others are struggling with. You care enough that you want to help in ways that you can.

Author Brene Brown writes, “One of the greatest (and least discussed) barriers to compassion practice is the fear of setting boundaries and holding people accountable. I know it sounds strange, but I believe that understanding the connection between boundaries, accountability, acceptance, and compassion has made me a kinder person.”

Interviewed on 60 Minutes, she said she thought the most compassionate people have faith in common, however, her research had found that the most compassionate people have boundaries. They respect the boundaries of others and they expect others to respect their boundaries.

She also says, “The heart of compassion is really acceptance. The better we are at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become … It’s difficult to accept people when they are hurting us or taking advantage of us or walking all over us … If we really want to practice compassion, we have to start by setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behavior.”


What does she mean about setting boundaries? You decide where the lines are, the things that you are willing to allow. But when the line is crossed, there are consequences. Now that sounds familiar. Mom said, “Before you act on something, consider the possible consequences of that act and whether they are things you are willing to live with if you have to.”

Brown thinks “this rage-blame-too-tired-and-busy-to-follow-through mind-set is why we’re so heavy on self-righteous anger and so low on compassion.”

Maybe Brown is onto something here. The big question is how to fix this. She says there is a connection between compassion and setting boundaries.

Compassion can be learned or developed or improved. Everyone has experienced moments when they have felt alone, no one at their back, facing troubles … alone. If we stop to think about our own such experiences, the feelings of empathy and compassion may happen and you understand what the other person is looking at in a moment. Maybe in that moment you remember how you felt, what you needed in that moment, whether someone was suddenly there and you weren’t alone anymore. You see with your heart. But you need boundaries with consequences.

Frankly, there is a lot of envy going on around us. Something I learned as a young child, “Be happy when something good happens to someone else. Your turn will come for good things to happen to you, too.” However, if you look around you may notice there are persons who have to tear down those who receive a good thing because they are envious. They resent the happiness of someone else, and set out to sabotage, to rip away the other person’s joy instead of taking encouragement and finding a way to succeed with their own dreams and goals.

“Setting boundaries and holding people accountable is a lot more work than shaming and blaming. But it’s also much more effective. Shaming and blaming without accountability is toxic to couples, families, organizations, and communities,” Brown said.

FRC History Bites: The Columbiana County Area Council on Alcoholism received notice of incorporation May 4, 1973. The first office was above the J.C. Penney store in Salem and funded through the Bureau of Alcohol Services within the Ohio Department of Health. In the 1980s, the board of trustees voted to close the Salem office and move to a more central location in Lisbon. The name was changed to Family Recovery Center at that time. On Oct. 5, 2012, FRC purchased the 966 N. Market St. building in Lisbon to house the education department and expand the clinical department and its business programs to meeting the demands of employers throughout the area.

For help or more information, contact Family Recovery Center, 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468. Visit the website at FRC is funded in part by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.