Jun 30, 2020Strengthening your compassion

Strengthening your compassion

Image credit: jclk8888 on Pixabay.com

“Your response to the world’s suffering depends on what you force yourself to notice.”

Rev. David Bast

Is compassion a rare attribute nowadays? I can’t answer that, but it is worth asking myself if I think, speak, and act in a way that reflects this core Christian value.

The Latin root of compassion means “to suffer with”, to feel along with another person. Compassion is a willingness to sympathize with the pain of another human being and be stirred to act in order to help those who suffer. Far from being the “vice of a feeble soul” it was once considered, compassion is a powerful agent of change.

Jesus walked this world, showed us the compassion of God, and transformed the world. Moved with compassion Jesus “stretched out his hand” over and over again – to a leper (Mark 1:41), the sick (Matthew 14:14), and the suffering widow burying her only son (Luke 7:13). St. Augustine said, “What is compassion but a kind of fellow-feeling in our hearts for another’s misery, which compels us to come to his help by every means in our power?”

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

Dalai Lama

Perhaps compassion comes naturally to some more than others, but the capacity to feel compassion can be built, encouraged to grow, and improved gradually over time. It is powerful and can literally change the world. After all, who does not appreciate being the recipient of another person taking the time to “live inside my skin”?

I recently ran across an interesting self-organized TEDx Talk “How Studying Privilege Systems Can Strengthen Compassion” given by Peggy McIntosh at Timberlane Schools back in 2012.

“This “ little old lady with white hair” (her words) IS using her privilege to educate those of us that needed to hear her message. I don’t think I could have taken in what she said here from someone else. This is a very powerful talk…I was looking for someone to help me understand this time in history and I found her.”

Hollis Wenzel

The above comment left by one of the viewers made me think this could be a timely video to watch. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to notice and discover the compassion within. Find encouragement through the links below.

  • Neurotheology.info has several videos highlighting the Fruits of the Spirit – all of which build understanding and compassion.
  • Positive Psychology has several compassion building exercises and writes “compassion, then, is not only a vital piece of our humanity, it is also an extremely effective tool for improving our lives and the lives of others.”

Kim Snodgrass is Assistant to the Bishop for Christian Formation.

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