If you have to cultivate any one thing to be no longer just a survivor, it would be compassion. You perform an act of compassion because you have a value for compassion. You don’t have compassion towards somebody when you perceive the person as a threat or as a competitor to you, but you cross the barriers and carry out an act of compassion. It is then that you become a contributor. It is not what you do, but the level at which you operate that makes you a contributor.
When you function at that level you reckon yourself a contributor. Yad bhävam tad bhavati, when you think of yourself as someone who needs to be protected from others, you become a weakling. When you think that you can offer protection to others, you become strong. If you think that the world is a trap, it is a trap. You will perceive a threat everywhere. Every shadow becomes a ghost and every rope turns into a snake because of this fear. Every benign person becomes hostile and you see hostility everywhere. It all depends upon how you look at yourself.
The world is a bully to you if you think you are a victim; it will bully you if you are weak, and negotiate with you if you are strong. The poet Bhartrhari wrote that the wind, väyu, becomes an enemy to the small flame and extinguishes it, but if the flame is strong, väyu becomes a friend. We see that even a passing wind can extinguish a small flame such as that of a matchstick. However, when that flame is strong, like a raging fire, the wind only fans it on and helps it spread!
In this world, people parley with the strong and bully the weak. This strength is not physical, but an inner strength. The world is a friend if you are strong, and if you are strong, you become a contributor. If you are weak, you are at best, a survivor against all odds. You can either be a survivor or you can choose to be a contributor. It takes honesty to be strong and to be compassionate. People think that if you are compassionate you are weak. That is not so. No weak person is compassionate, either to himself or to the world.