Growing up, I noticed my Mom likes to leave reading material lying in convenient locations (i.e. dining room table, bathroom reading racks, etc) with pages opened up to articles that she thinks one or all of us should read. Sometimes she highlights the parts that are particularly pertinent. It’s very subtle (but I’m on to you Mah!) and usually, it provokes enough curiosity that I do read it.
My parents helped us tremendously when moving to BC last month and as the chaos slowly cleared from my living/dining area, I found a little “Focus on the Family” magazine on my dining table. The topic of the month was on Compassion. As I read through the short but challenging articles it became more and more clear that I have WAAAAYS to go in becoming a more compassionate person. (I’ve been told I’ve grown more compassionate since high school…but this just shows how heartless I really was. ha ha.)
To be compassionate is to feel in your gut the same pain/unease/sorrow/grief/anger/etc as the other person feels. Not just an “Hmm, I see how you might feel that way.” Jesus Himself wept over the condition of the people of Jerusalem, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. He saw the hurt, He saw their hearts. And not, as I’m quick to think, that what I can see and analyze of their unfortunate circumstance is a product of their choices and so if we can fix the problem by doing this or changing that then all will be well. One of the article authors wrote, “Fixing is a personal, hidden agenda to keep the pain at a distance. Rather than simply suffering with our friends, we tend to give advice.” (That’s SO me. *gulp*) While there’s a place for pointing out truths and doling advice, jumping straight to it when a person comes to you in pain is self-centered, unloving and certainly uncompassionate. (I’m sorry to the friends I’ve done this to!!)
I’m challenged to ask myself why it’s hard to look on another’s pain and enter in. Our world is definitely one that avoids as much pain as possible. (I’ve seen those pain-killer aisles at the pharmacy.) But if I can’t feel another’s pain, then how can I be compassionate? Or maybe it’s that I don’t look past the visible pain into the person’s heart. Another article author, Steve Johnson, wrote this:
When we look past the pain, we see the person and engage him with our heart. That doesn’t mean we ignore the pain. We acknowledge it and respect it. But we look past it to the heart of the person. Look past the suffering to the sufferer. Look past the hurt to the heart. When we do that true compassion is evoked.
I see more now that I tend to live on the side of conviction and truth, rather than compassion and grace. Not that I should be living on the other side entirely as neither extreme is healthy nor Christlike….but that I need to exercise and walk in tension between both sides. It still means I have a lot of compassion growth opportunity to get to the right balance however. God please grow a compassionate heart in me.
What does being compassionate mean to you? Are you consciously trying to be compassionate or do you already live with compassion?