I try to become a kinder person. Sometimes I feel bad ( guilty) after not doing a service for someone, even if it's not in my benefit to do that thing. How can I understand when it's kindness toward another and when it's "stepping over me"?

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    Sep 2, 2015 at 8:23

8 Answers 8


In Buddhism, there are fundamental realizations that help you answer these kinds of questions via direct experience, especially the realization of non-self.

There is in fact no "other" that does stepping on. There is in fact no "me" that is being stepped on.

You are not just yourself. "You" are the whole universe (in a sense).

Anyway, when you can realize that then you will be able to let go enough to stop feeling sorry for yourself and be able to see things objectively more clearly.

That is what the following advice is based on.

If people did not pay for services and people just gave them away then two things would happen:

  • Those people would in fact not value the service/gift that they are receiving
  • The person doing the giving will go hungry and perish, one way or another

Furthermore, this delicate exchange that I am referring to, if disrespected by letting other people "step on you" by not getting something back in value (whether it is the practice itself be it teaching or whatever service you are offering), then they will eventually form a debt with you and a chronicity of theievery in their own mind.

In Buddhist tradition, monks don't just beg and run off after they get a meal. They tend to share dharma with their benefactor.

Something to think about: by letting other people "step on you", you are enabling them to do an evil deed! Do not let them use you! This evil deed is not only their seed of retribution but your own to experience in the future as well.

So be strong, be assertive. Make sure you are happy with the exchange! Give and take value. Even if that value is just the action itself, make sure you are happy with it before doing it and not doing it too much out of guilt or pity. If you have to do it out of pity, then try to assert that you are just "making one exception" so that there is no chronicity in the person's mind (which strangely enough is your mind as well!)

I am sure I lost you somewhere and I would need to talk much longer in order to clarify this deep, deep matter but the following things will help you solidify and strengthen your thinking in this regard as you live in this world.

  • Read MindOS 2nd edition (the best psychology book that exists)
  • Read Diamond Sutra Explained
  • Do Metta meditation
  • Meditate on the feeling of being "stepped on"... find out where it is coming from... talk to it in a journal. Ask this feeling what will make it feel better and happy. You will have surprising insights when you can open up to.. yourself.

Someone once familiarised me with the word "idiot compassion", and it stuck with me. Even for one on the path of the Bodhisattva, who sees the universe as one being, there's a lot to learn about being wise in compassion.

Buddhist teachings aren't separate from nature, so there's nothing non-Buddhist about learning from one's own body and nature. We can see in our body a beautiful coexistence between disparate organs each with a function, they sometimes cooperate, and other times they can fight each other.

If the stomach was very compassionate and kept an excess amount of alcohol or bacteria inside it without nausea and vomiting, very soon alcohol or bacterial poisoning will kill the entire body. In this case the stomach is carrying out its duty in causing trouble for the body for the sake of greater good.

This isn't violence, this is compassionate coexistence.

A bodhisattva too should take appropriate action to serve the greater good, but how exactly that works comes from experiential knowledge. I don't know of any text or sutra that can teach one suitably to perform so, but a lot of times the right course of action is very clear after a brief meditation.

Answer based in Conventional reality (sammuti-sacca).

It can be quite challenging to deal with people sometimes. Especially when one is practicing the Dhamma and trying to do what's best for oneself and for other beings. This is often a delicate balance that one has to find. It takes practice and often by trial and error, until one becomes familiar with both the Dhamma and the different situations in life. Like any other training, one will improve with time, if one works diligently.

A rule of thumb is to never allow yourself to step on yourself, in order to help another being. You are just as important. Actually in Buddhism, it's greatly emphasized that one gets to know oneself and develop oneself, in order to be able to help other beings. Or else it is like the blind leading the blind.

Helping other beings is an important part of Buddhism but there are many ways to help other people. Sometimes it's just lending an ear or a shoulder, while other times it might be more practical or complex in nature. What is important here is the ethical foundation one is building ones help on.

When performing an action it's important that our intention / volition is wholesome, meaning that it is based in the wholesome roots of "renunciation, good-will and harmlessness". If our actions are based in wholesomeness then the resultants will also become wholesome. That is a feature of kamma, that it produces results corresponding to the ethical quality of the action.

If ones actions are based in the unwholesome roots, i.e. "greed, hatred and delusion", then unwholesome resultants will be produced. An example could be, if another being is asking for ones help but one does not really want to do it or one does not have the time to help, so there arises guilt.

Guilt is an unwholesome mental factor so if one acts upon it, one will experience its results which will be unwholesome. In other words, suffering will be produced.

So how to deal with these things? How to stop creating unwholesome kamma for oneself and other beings?

Buddhism offers a solution called the Noble Eightfold Path which is the path that leads to Nibbana. By following it, one undertakes the training and development of ones mind, meaning that one will gradually reduce the unwholesome roots until they can be eradicated permanently, while cultivating the wholesome roots.

Answer based in Ultimate reality (paramattha-sacca).

As it has already been mentioned, then when dealing with this issue in ultimate reality, there exists no "Self, I or Me". In fact there exists no persons, animals, cars, planets or other conventional stuff. These are merely conventions that when searched for cannot be found.

In order to truly understand this, one will have to do insight meditation. By practicing this type of meditation, one will gain experiental knowledge of reality and thereby realize that there is no person to begin with. When one first begins to see this, gradually ones problems begin to fade away. One realizes that all problems are caused by this non-existing "Self, I or Me", that is identifying with stuff and taking ownership of it.

There is a huge difference in saying: "I am angry" and "Anger has arisen", or "I'm feeling guilty" and "Guilt has arisen". It is the second option one will come to realize by doing insight meditation.

If you would like to read more about insight meditation, references can be found here.

Ven. Yuttadhammo has also made a video series, called "Introduction to Meditation: How To Meditate" and a book called "How To Meditate: A Beginner's Guide to Peace".

1 Conventional Reality & Ultimate Reality

  • I think this is a standard Buddhist answer but it does not answer "How can I understand when it's kindness toward another and when it's "stepping over me"?"
    – Ahmed
    Sep 4, 2015 at 17:17

Should I always put another person's interest before mine?

Firstly, what's the person's interest? It's happiness. No matter what a person does, a person is always searching for happiness, even though at first glance it doesn't always seem like that because we lack wisdom to see it. Nonetheless, due to this very same ignorance, beings don't know how to find happiness.

They could be doing something or wanting something from you, and that same "doing" and/or "wanting", due to their ignorance, will make them even sadder. In such cases, you must not put a person's interest before yours. Instead, you should teach them to act in a different way in order for them to become happier.


They could be doing something or wanting something from you, and that same "doing" and/or "wanting", will make them happier. In such cases, you must put a person's interest before yours and you should teach them what else they could do to become even happier.

In order for you to know exactly when to put a person's interest before yours, you must first become happy yourself. Thus, you must follow the Dhamma, learn and aquire wisdom. The more wisdom you'll have, the more you'll be happy and the more you'll know how to help others on their path towards happiness.

It's your lack of wisdom that prevents you from knowing when to put another person's interest before yours. What happens when you don't have enough wisdom? You suffer. In your case, you feel guilty when not doing a service for someone. Why? Because you can't discern good from wrong. What is good? Good is doing actions that make beings happier. Wrong is the opposite.

Correct discernment between good and wrong comes from wisdom. Wisdom comes from following and experiencing the teachings in the Dhamma. With wisdom comes liberation from suffering. When you liberate completely from suffering, your wisdom is perfect. When your wisdom is perfect, you'll know exactly what's best for others to liberate from their suffering too. Thus, you'll know exactly when to put another person's interest before yours.


Don't follow blindly ,you have to think and find what is better for common good and do it.

As per kalama sutta " don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ then you should enter & remain in them.”


"How can I understand when it's kindness toward another and when it's "stepping over me"?"

Like it's been said, there is no "you" to be stepped over.

I would add that it could depend on what is asked of you.

It is kindness if the service genuinely helps the other person in some way or has a positive effect, but if they only call when they need a ride to a party then it is not wholesome to encourage their partying nor is it wholesome for them to party.

If they ask you to teach them to meditate, then it would be very kind of you to do so and it would benefit you as well.


I feel your pain, i don't think it's a good idea to put other's needs in front of your own, please see this article to get out of this thinking: http://www.whatdoyouthinkmyfriend.com/Treasure/circus.html

Of course sometimes our selfless action can be give hope etc to others, even if we sacrifice our needs for those of a single other person. For example the priest Maximilian Kolbe helped inspire many people by volunteering to take a stranger's place and be killed in Auschwitz

In my experience sometimes people will harass even if i give them what they want, what happens is that the goal posts are moved instead. Unfortunately this indicates that they themselves do not know what they need. My guess is that these people have a big need for caring, empathy, and to have a sense that they matter. Isn't it sad that they are not able to see this, and that they express themselves using punishment or psychological violence? This almost guarantees that they will not get these needs met in their interactions with other people. It would be even more sad if we as Buddhists aren't able to see their beauty

There are many different mental attitudes i've taken over the years (that can sometimes lead to a wide variety of actions long-term). One is - as mentioned above - to focus on their needs. Another to focus on our own needs, we may have a need for care and consideration for example. Yet another alternative that has been useful for me is to work with my thinking, the Sutra "the Parable of the Saw" can help: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.021x.budd.html

In general i find helping others is one of the best ways to help myself. And vice versa. For example if let my meditation be pleasant i will be pleasant when i'm with other people

Kind Regards, Tord


To serve

  • not new
  • not leaving
  • not ill
  • not lacking food

  • and especially unvirtuose with greedy objectives, people amassing, delight in productivity.

If putting in that neither joy nor good will be attained.

For more and details: [Q&A] Should I always put another person's interest before mine?

Beware to serve identity especially such as group consciousness, e.g. community illusion.

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