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Power and Force Revisited

by Kevin B. Burk, author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.

I have recently been struggling with extended bouts of compassion.

This might seem strange to you. How can one struggle with compassion? How on earth could compassion create difficulties? Well, the difficulties and challenges have come up because in a recent article, “Power and Force” (online at, I explored the fact that I had discovered that I had compassion for individuals who are compelled to commit acts of violence, and even acts of terror.

After a heartfelt plea from my father, I amended this article online to make it explicitly clear that I in no way condone, encourage, support, sympathize with, or in any way shape or form associate myself with acts of violence, terror or any individuals who would ever consider these courses of action. Nor does the fact that I understand how and why someone could be driven to these acts mean that I have ever, or would ever consider violence of any kind to be an acceptable choice for me.

The fact that it seems so shocking that I would express compassion for, well, not to mince words, terrorists, has nothing to do with my politics or my intentions and everything to do with my experience of what compassion really means—particularly the fact that compassion is entirely different from sympathy or empathy, and that true compassion implies neither.

Over a year ago, I participated in a guided meditation where we were encouraged to go within ourselves, to connect with the divine feminine in each of us, and to ask her certain questions about our true nature and gifts. Now, I do not do well with guided meditations. I don’t exactly fall asleep, but I do tend to go very deep, very quickly, and am rarely able to follow the imagery or the process.

This meditation, however, was different.

I went as deep as I ever do, however, I still maintained a certain awareness of what the process was about. I saw myself in a deep, ancient cave, and in that cave, I encountered an old, old, wise woman—the Crone aspect of the Divine Feminine. I don’t remember what questions I was meant to have asked her, other than that one of them seemed to be about my own divine nature or gift. Her answer was “Compassion.”

This made sense to me, since I have always felt that compassion was one of my strong suits. I have always prided myself on my ability to feel compassion.

However, she then told me that it didn’t mean what I thought it meant, and I was suddenly and instantly fully conscious, and frankly, completely freaked out by the whole experience.

It took me a few minutes to get my bearings, and considerably longer than that to begin to process the information and explore what it meant to me. I’ve covered the subject of compassion in several articles, most notably in “Imperfect Storm” but also in “Smokey Mirrors” (see the article archives at

Considering and questioning what compassion really means has been an ongoing part of my own spiritual path, and evidently it’s time for me to take another look at the question and attempt to clarify where I stand on the subject of having compassion for individuals who, on the surface, appear not to merit it.

I’ll begin with a slight digression that will put in context the first time that I encountered a different interpretation of compassion. Years ago, I studied the Ishaya’s Ascension techniques. For want of a better term, these are very powerful meditative techniques taught by Ishaya monks. The Ishaya order has three categories of monks, each associated with one of the three Gunas from the Ayurvedic tradition. The Gunas represent the three fundamental, primal energies of the Universe.

The first Guna is Sattva, which represents the ultimate creative potential. The monks who follow the Sattva path practice purity and wear only white. I have made the connection astrologically between Sattva and the planet Neptune, which, when considered from this perspective, does indeed represent the ultimate creative potential of the Universe.

The second Guna is Rajas, which represents the tension between Sattva and Tamas, the third Guna. The monks who follow the Tamas path are the most active; they interact the most with the outside world, and carry most of the teachings. These monks wear either reds or gold. I realized that Rajas must be associated with the planet Uranus, which is active, disruptive, and electric in nature.

Finally, the third Guna is Tamas, which is the ultimate destructive force in the Universe. The monks who follow the Tamas path wear all black, and they practice “ruthless compassion.” What I found fascinating was that the most destructive force in the Universe is Unconditional Love. Unconditional Love will obliterate everything that is not real, eternal or true. Astrologically, this was a huge concept for me because Tamas must relate to Pluto, and this gave me a whole different understanding of Pluto, not to mention a whole new take on compassion.

Compassion does not necessarily entail sympathy or empathy. While compassion can be the gateway to forgiveness (which is both powerful and powerfully misunderstood in its own right), compassion does not necessarily imply forgiveness, nor indeed any kind of absolution. Compassion is not necessarily gentle, and not necessarily kind. That compassion can be ruthless should dispel any beliefs that compassion is nice.

One aspect of compassion that we more easily relate to is the opening of the heart. When we feel compassion for someone, we are acknowledging the truth of who they are, and the truth of who we are. We are acknowledging that there is no separation, that we are all individualized aspects of God. One aspect of compassion is found in the saying, “There but for the grace of God go I,” although just as true compassion is devoid of empathy or sympathy, it is also devoid of any feelings of judgment or pity.

But compassion can also be ruthless and cruel. We can feel compassion for someone who has committed a crime or an act of violence—although in order to do this, we must confront and embrace the part of ourselves that is capable of violence (and this part exists in every one of us). The ruthless part of the compassion is that while we can understand, and know the truth of the divine in these individuals, we also accept that they are personally responsible for the choices they made, and they are personally responsible for the consequences of those choices.

This seems obvious and simplistic when considering terrorists; of course we expect terrorists to be held accountable for their choices, and of course we judge these choices to be unacceptable in every possible way. But consider a different scenario—consider that someone you love, while driving under the influence, injured or killed someone. You are the only person who knows the truth of what happened. If you keep silent, your loved one will never be arrested, prosecuted and tried. If you speak the truth, on the other hand, your loved one will have to face the consequences of his or her actions, harsh and unpleasant though they may be for you both.

Which choice is the truly compassionate one?

The truly compassionate action is to speak the truth and force your loved one to accept responsibility for their choices. Some call this “tough love,” but I think it’s more accurately described as “ruthless compassion.”

We are in no position to pass judgment on anyone. We do not know where their path leads, and while sympathy, empathy, dependence and fear may tell us that the responsible and compassionate thing to do is to protect our loved ones from any harm or pain whenever possible and at any cost, this is not the case. This choice is neither responsible nor compassionate. It is irresponsible and ultimately selfish, because it’s motivated more by our need to maintain our current relationship with our loved one than by the need to support them in becoming a fully actualized and self-responsible being. Both the responsible thing to do and the compassionate thing to do is to lovingly support them as they accept the consequences of their choices and actions. No, their path will not be easy (for either of you), but compassion allows us to support them in this journey, without judgment, knowing that there is a divine purpose to everything, and that often the most powerful gifts come from the most tragic, difficult, and painful experiences.

I recently had the honor of hearing Azim Khamisa speak. His son Tariq, a 20-year-old college student was out delivering pizza one night in San Diego, and was shot and killed by a 14-year-old gang member, Tony Hicks. Azim grieved his son, but also looked for the deeper meaning and gift in these events. Azim firmly believed that there were “victims at both ends of the gun.” Through the compassion that came from this awareness, he initiated a relationship with the boy’s grandfather and guardian, Ples Felix, and not only was able to forgive the grandfather, but also was able to forgive Tony, the boy who killed his only son. Azim and Ples have created the TKF Foundation (Tariq Khamisa Foundation, program teaching non-violence and forgiveness in schools and spiritual communities across the country. When Tony is released from prison, he will be joining the TKF foundation, sharing his story and his experiences with children across the country, and inspiring them to make non-violent choices in their lives.

This example brings up the power of forgiveness, which I’ll save for another article. It is, however, also an exceptional example of true compassion because without true compassion, the forgiveness would not be possible.

Justice, I believe is closely associated with compassion, at least when it comes to accepting personal responsibility for our choices and actions. Although each culture and society creates laws that are meant to reflect and enforce that society’s standards of justice, and the laws are intended to protect the members of the society and act as a deterrent to criminal activities, there is often a significant discrepancy between law and Justice.

To one degree or another most of our systems of justice and law are based on the “an eye for an eye” approach. In many States in America, and in the Federal Laws of America, certain crimes are punishable by death. Ruthless though my compassion may be, I am adamantly against the death penalty in any circumstance. It has been shown time and again not to be a deterrent against violent crime, and the greatest minds of the 20th century agree that a government that condones violence as a punishment only creates more violent crime.

Albert Einstein put it most succinctly when he said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

If we fight violence with violence, we only create more violence. If we fight terrorism with terror, we only create more terrorism. There is absolutely no scenario where violence is the problem where violence is also the answer.

The greatest spiritual leaders of our time have embraced this truth and always avoided violence, even when it seemed justified. Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife, Coretta Scott King all eschewed violence in every form, even as they fought for change and railed against social injustice. Although we might not consider him to be a spiritual leader per se, former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn have dedicated their lives to working for peace, quietly spreading love and compassion, doing good work across the world.

I would never presume to include myself in this list, although I deeply respect, honor and admire these magnificent beings for their gifts to humanity. I mention them, however, because I believe that they had a comprehensive understanding of the true meaning of compassion, and that they would and did understand that it is possible to have compassion for individuals who commit acts of violence and terror without in any way condoning or supporting their actions; and that it is also possible to have compassion for these individuals while ensuring that they are held personally accountable for their choices and their actions. I firmly believe that the only way to stop the violence and terrorists in the world is to do exactly that. Until we are willing to relate to the individuals that commit these desperate acts from a place of compassion, ruthless or otherwise, we will never solve the problem.

As I discussed in “Power and Force,” my willingness to be fully present with my own feelings of impotence, anger and rage at what is happening to America today, put me in touch with the part of myself that is, in fact, capable of violence. Because I’m willing to acknowledge and embrace this part of myself, to release my judgments about him and consider what gifts he has to offer me, I know that I will always be able to choose how and when to connect with him. As soon as I was willing to sit with the truth that as much as I am loathe to admit it, that I, myself, could conceivably be driven to consciously, intentionally harm another human being, I realized that I need never again feel the need or urge to do so.

When I was willing to sit with, to acknowledge that part of myself, I immediately recognized that I had far more supportive options. When I allowed myself to move through my feelings of impotence, I was able to access even greater reserves of power. But until I was willing to admit that I am, in fact, capable of violence—until I was able to have compassion for the individuals who feel trapped and believe that they have no power, and who choose to express these emotions through violence and acts of terror—I was addressing the problem at the level of thinking that created the problem in the first place. As soon as I made that shift, however, as soon as I could see that part in myself, my level of thinking also shifted. I was no longer addressing the problem at the level of thinking that created it, and no longer considered that violence in any form was an intelligent, sensible, or remotely effective choice.

Instead, I remembered the truth that my thoughts, the level of energy that I choose to vibrate at, have a huge impact on the fate of the world. As Dr. David Hawkins has proven in his magnificent book, Power vs Force, A single person choosing to be forgiving and accepting offsets the negative choices of over 90,000 individuals. The more of us who choose compassion, who choose peace, who choose non-violence, the more present this energy will become in the world.

The path to compassion, and to raising our level of thinking is not an easy one. It involves embracing certain spiritual truths, including the Universal Law of Relationships, which states that our partners in relationship are our mirrors: they reflect our own issues back to us. This is challenging enough when we’re looking at our personal relationships. When we consider it on a broader scale, it’s almost too much to grasp.

I’ve discussed the difference between reality (little “r”) and Reality (big “R”). The big “R” Reality is the truth that we are eternal, multidimensional beings, integral aspects of All That Is, who are currently having a human experience. The little “r” reality, where most of us spend the vast majority of our time, is nothing but words in our head. Little “r” reality is illusion, and on a very real, probably quantum level, it’s entirely personal. Everything we experience outside of ourselves is nothing more than a projection of a part of ourselves that we have not embraced or accepted. In other words, thoughts are things.

From a Religious Science perspective, the first principle is that God is All There Is. This means that All That Is must be God. ALL that is. Anything that exists, everything that exists, is, by definition, an aspect and expression of God. Now, in Religious Science, we believe that the fundamental nature and expression of God is Unconditional Love. Anything that we perceive to be other than God, to be other than an expression of Unconditional Love, is a little “r” reality judgment, because the big “R” reality is that everything is good, and everything is God.

Everything includes violence, suffering, death, destruction, loss, depression, grief, cruelty, and every other experience that we judge to be bad, wrong, or flat out evil. And everything that we perceive outside of ourselves exists inside of ourselves as well. Our judgments around these qualities keep us trapped in the illusion of separation of the little “r” reality, and keep us separate from our true power.

When Jesus said, “Judge not, lest you be judged,” he was speaking of the Universal Law of Relationships. It’s never about the other person. Any judgment we pass on others is nothing more than a judgment we are passing on some part of ourselves that we are actively suppressing, repressing, or denying. Eventually, the parts of ourselves that are being hidden will demand to be recognized. If we don’t acknowledge them by doing the inner work, we’ll experience them as if they were coming from outside of us.

In the most simplified terms, what this means is that we each created our own experiences of the world. The violence and terror we see in the outside world exist because we have not embraced and acknowledged the part of ourselves that is capable of violence and terror. As I’ve argued in previous articles, the real War we fight is within ourselves. Everyone and everything we experience and perceive in our little “r” reality is our reflection. Just as I see myself reflected in my relationships with my family and my friends, I can also see myself reflected in my relationship with President Bush. Needless to say, this particular relationship provides me with ample opportunity to become aware of my judgments and the parts of myself that I am even less willing to acknowledge, let alone embrace. But as I live my life with the belief that God is All There Is, that means that there is no place where God stops. If I want to embrace and experience the truth that I am a divine manifestation of God, then I must also accept that this must also be true for President Bush.

I’m coming to recognize that for me, compassion means being willing to embrace and accept this truth, no matter how powerful my judgments may be. Compassion means being willing to accept everyone for the divine truth of who they are, and recognizing that an individual’s actions and choices do not, in any way, diminish their fundamentally divine nature. Compassion means elevating my thinking above the level where the problems were created, and embracing the truth that as individuals with free will, we are free to choose our paths, but we are also responsible for the consequences and repercussions of our choices. We can have compassion for someone, and even understand their choices without condoning or supporting their choices and actions.

I consider myself to be a gentle, non-violent, peaceful man. And I also understand that the most effective and powerful way that I can create more peace in the world is by recognizing and embracing the part of me that is violent and at war. If I truly wish to see an end to injustice in the world, I must be willing to accept and embrace where I am unjust in my life, both in relationship to my self and in relationship to others. When I despair of the absolute lack of integrity of our elected officials, I accept that in order to change this, I must choose to live in absolute integrity in every area of my life.

As I indicated, this is a gross oversimplification of the true nature of our little “r” reality. Much of our little “r” reality is created by our collective consciousness. If and when I ever reach the point when I am truly the embodiment of Peace because I have embraced every part of myself that at times is not peaceful, I know that there will still be war and violence in the world. However, I also know that the more I pursue this path and the more I raise my own level of thinking, the less war and violence there will be, because my higher vibrations will offset hundreds of thousands of people whose thinking resonates at the lower vibrations. As I raise my level of consciousness, it raises the average level of consciousness of all of humanity; and as the average level of consciousness rises, it lifts those who vibrate at the lower levels to higher levels.

As the collective level of thinking of humanity rises, we begin to see lasting effective solutions to the significant problems in the world because we are no longer operating at the level at which the problems were created.

Kevin B. Burk is the author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life. Visit for a FREE Report on creating Amazing Relationships.

©2006 Kevin B. Burk, all rights reserved. If you would like to reprint this article in your publication, web page, or eZine (which you may do for free!), click here for details.


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