Compassion and kindness–The Caregiver–Walking with Heroes Part 8

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Welcome back…  it’s time to discover another of the heroes that shape our lives – the heroes that we discover when we look deep into our own hearts. And the heroes we find there may surprise us.

Last time we looked at the Warrior – in our more enlightened times the Warrior may seem an anachronism, out of place in a world where we strive for peace – and yet the Warrior has much to teach us in terms of fighting for success and demanding victory.

Again, you may find the stories and character of the heroes we meet speaking to you, and when you do, you’ll also find that you find your place on the story line – understanding where you are in the journey.

The stage of the journey

This is the final part of Preparation for the journey. At this point, we’re nearly ready to step into the unknown. Our basic training is complete, and we have learned the skills that allow us to function in the world at large. We have learned to fight – and now we must learn to love.

The toughness and drive to succeed of the warrior must be tempered with something stronger than steel – with something that has more power than any force on earth – and here we encounter – the Caregiver.

The nature of the Caregiver

If the Warrior is all about success on the world’s stage – about creating a career, about pursuing a future, about the fight to create a world that meets your desires and your dreams – then the Caregiver is when we encounter parenthood in one form or another.

The Caregiver is the ideal balance to the relentless drive of the warrior – bringing love, looking to care for others. Without the Caregiver, the Warrior is harsh, unfeeling, looking for personal success. With the balance of the Caregiver, then the fight develops a purpose. The struggle becomes more than just success, victory, the defeat of an opponent – but to create a stable environment for ourselves and others.

One word of caution here – we need to find ways to bring ourselves under the Caregiver’s protection. If we do not love and care for ourselves, then we will find it hard to love others. The biblical injunction is to ‘love others as ourselves’ – we need to maintain that balance if we are to have anything to give in the long term.

Yet the Caregiver without the Warrior will result in sentimentality and in inaction – floundering in a sea of niceness but without purpose. It’s the Warrior instinct that is invoked when a tiger’s cubs are threatened – turning from loving parent to snarling defence of her cubs in an instant.

The Goal

Up until now, our goal has been primarily selfish. Here we step into loving and caring for others. Here we really connect with the desire to make a difference, to change the lives of others through love and sacrifice. It’s built into each one of us at a foundational level – although many manage to sublimate it and hide it deep within, the need to love and care for others is a primary human drive and needs to find expression.

Here is where grizzled smuggler Han Solo finds a fatherly love and affection for the young Skywalker – and where the motley band of rebels learn to create family for each other. This is what drives John MacLaine to rescue the hostages in ‘Die Hard’ – not only the sense that he is a new York cop, but also to fight for his estranged wife – and for the others under threat. Here is the affection of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in ‘Lord of the Rings’ that will cause them to offer their own safety to protect the hobbits – and the impetus that will drive Sam Gamgee to follow Frodo deep into Mordor.

The Caregiver looks to find a way to protect those under their care, if necessary sacrificing their own safety to defend them. Not only do they look to protect from physical harm – they also look to provide, to encourage, to help their protégées to grow and become self reliant.

Primal Fear

The Caregiver fears challenges to their identify as selfless protectors – they fear accusations of selfishness and stinginess that undermine their belief in themselves as laying their lives on the line. Perhaps more than any, because loving others seems so hard, it’s very easy for this belief to creep in – ‘what if I’m not really loving? What if deep down inside I am just as selfish as anyone else? What will happen when the chips are down?’ The Caregiver must seek deep inside themselves to know the truth of their heroic response.

Similarly, the Caregiver fears ingratitude and thoughtlessness – worried that their efforts will go unnoticed.

Response to the challenge

The Caregiver has a very different response to the dragon’s arrival. When confronted with the fire breathing menace, the Caregiver will respond with love rather than violence. If others are under threat, then the Caregiver will seek to comfort and help them, taking care of those who have been injured and hurt. But also the Caregiver will seek to find the best in the dragon, seeking to take care of it and looking for where it itself is injured. Here we find Androcles (the warrior) taking the thorn from the lion’s paw.

A Heroic Task

The Caregiver is called to love – to bring kindness and compassion into the world. It’s the core of existence – as the spiritual text ‘A Course In Miracles’ encourages us that Love is at the very core of existence – that there is only Love or Fear – and that Fear does not exist. The Course invites us to ask continually “What would Love do now?”

Yet it’s very easy for the caregiver to find themselves poured out in the service of others. Without taking care of our own needs, it’s possible to feel stretched, to lose touch with our own identity. Balancing the needs of others with our own needs is a task that needs continual attention – whether that means a temporary retreat into our own space, or taking time out to look after ourselves – without it the Caregiver will collapse under their self imposed demands.

The Gift

The heart of the Caregiver is of compassion and generosity. Driven by Love, they see tenderness and caring as the answer to Life’s troubles, knowing that as they pour Love out on a needy world, that the world will become a better place.

The shadow Caregiver

Love and compassion are incorruptible at their core. And yet sometimes those step beyond true love. Sometimes the Caregiver becomes the suffering martyr – unable to voice their own needs and taking pleasure in being put upon by all comers. The martyr will use guilt and obligation to control those in their care. While it has the semblance of love, this domination is totally loveless at its core.

We can also find that the Caregiver overcomes the Warrior instinct – while the Warrior seeks to succeed, parents can often find their drive to succeed wrapped up in the need to provide – giving up their own need for success in the desire to provide for their family, and making safe choices rather than listen to the call of their own hearts.

Levels of the Caregiver

Often, the Caregiver is invoked when a position of responsibility is thrust upon our hero. That may be a young family, an ailing relative or a work team to care for. (Take heed – it’s often necessary, particularly in a work situation, to find a balance between leading the team (Warrior) and nurturing it (Caregiver) – the best leaders dance the fine path between these two). In Mulan, the Caregiver role is Eddy Murphy’s Dragon – protecting and encouraging Mulan in her ordeal in the army bootcamp.

Initially, the Caregiver struggles to balance their own needs with those of others, and in an attempt to fulfil their role often sacrifice themselves for others. Unchecked, this can lead to burn out and to disillusionment. It is essential to step into a new level of caring for yourself to guarantee that others receive the best care – and that your own personal life is enriched through the process rather than being drained. At the same time, a mature Caregiver must learn tough love – allowing those in their care to step into their own destiny rather than keeping them safe within the nest.

At its highest level, the Caregiver steps beyond their own immediate charges – their family and friends – and into a larger role of caring at a societal or global level, building communities and building bonds with others.

The Caregiver’s story

Typically the story of the Caregiver is one of being drawn into providing for others – of caring at the expense of their own dreams. Eventually the drain of constantly providing for others leads to a sense of maiming and a frustration with life and the boundaries placed on them. Stepping into new opportunities and stepping into their own adventure, discovering their own path, enables them to return with a new sense of the power of Love – and empowers them to step into a new experience of that Love – being able to demonstrate that at a new level and in a new and bigger sphere of influence – enriching both their own lives and the lives of others.

Exercises and dreaming

What would you do for others if you had infinite resources? If all your dreams, all your wants, all your needs were met – how would you take that abundance and give away to others?

Where do you find yourself stretched by your perceived responsibilities to others? Does expressing these responsibilities help you feel more ‘you’ or do you find it getting in the way of your own dreams? How could you balance the needs of others with your own goals – or is it time to step into something else now?

Next time

We’ve covered the four archetypes of Preparation: Innocent, Orphan, Warrior, Caregiver. The next step is the first step into the real journey . . .

Before that, though, we’re going to take a time out next time and look at the needs that drive each one of us – how we can find ways of fulfilling our needs that provide balanced and powerful motivation on our journey.

Until next time – enjoy the journey!


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PS – If you missed any of the preceding parts of the programme – catch up here: PREVIOUS CHAPTERS

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