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What is compassion





What is compassion?

“If you only knew what compassion really is—
the compassion you must strive to imitate!
Overlooking everything to stoop to a heart’s
needs, paying no attention to any disappointments or ingratitude, being even kinder to those who
 have hurt you. Just be your Christ for them.

Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (p. 173). Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.

Compassion involves feeling another person's pain and wanting to take steps
to help relieve their suffering.  The word compassion itself derives from Latin
and means "to suffer together."



From my personal experience, I have found that compassion can be a source of suffering.  When feeling compassion for another it is easy to try to save the one suffering.  Or to find a way to fix the problem.  More often than not that is impossible since most of our problems can only be dealt with by taking responsibility for one's position.  The word ‘responsible’ does not mean taking control of the situation, but having a willingness to do what is needed to extricate oneself from it.  Making oneself a victim, to live from that position is not the way to go. 

The people who have helped me most in my life, when I need help with a serious situation or those who listen, but do not step in to save me. 


We become compassionate because we understand suffering, and perhaps have learned from our past how to walk through it without becoming bitter, cynical, or callous.

When one’s center is rooted in the Infinite, when faith only becomes stronger when life seems dark, chaotic, and makes no sense, it is then that we learn about God’s grace, and on some level what God’s love is all about. 

Today, it would seem compassion seems to be missing.   I am not saying it is, but when emotions come to the surface it is near impossible to be present to the pain of another.   Especially when they feel discounted.  

Br. Elias used to say:  If you want to make someone fall into a rage, just discount them”.  A lack of compassion makes the other person invisible behind a stereotype of some sort.  People are not stereotypes, all one need do is to seek to calmly listen, and to gently say what one wants to say.  Yelling, quoting, and glaring are not helpful tools to get someone to listen to you.  Compassion can free us from the need to do that.  However, to see the person before you, understanding their depth and complexity can bring up deep feelings, and emotions that are quite painful.

The human situation brings with it many joys, as well as suffering.   We all carry something.  To lack compassion, to run from seeking to understand another’s life can only make life darker than it needs to be.

Christians are called to show Christ compassion.  It is not an easy journey, but each human being is made in the image and likeness of  God.  We will either cause that image to grow, or we can make the inner wounds of those around us, which are invisible more all-encompassing. 

Compassion is a human trait, quite common, but can be overcome with burnout, or can lead to cynicism because we can all be difficult, stubborn, and manipulative when not at our best. 

People can take advantage; I know I can.  This usually happens not because of bad will, but because of the compulsive side of compassion which will be unable to say no.  Self-compassion will lead us to be truthful if we can’t help and allow us to change how others see us.  Communication does that, we change for others, as we show who we are and are not ashamed to share that. 

When compassion is lacking,  we simply reduce others to stereotypes.  It is easy to do to others, though I do not know of anyone who enjoys that happening to them. 

The practice of living the Golden Rule takes a lot of self-knowledge and reflection, along with, I believe with prayer.-Br.MD



Edited by markdohle

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