The last while I have been reflecting on the whole subject of compassion. Compassion – showing sympathy for someone often with a desire to help. That is how my dictionary puts it.
In an earlier post, I commented that I had inherited a propensity for this from my ancestral heritage. But this character trait is not just received through my genetic make up. I suppose it is a trait that has to be nurtured and developed. I had good role models. It is a trait for which it is good to develop a healthy sense of discernment too in order to not just become a victim of a false sense that without my intervention, the world will not make it. I am not God.
The medical world distinguishes between sympathy and another closely related word – empathy. If sympathy is entering into the feelings of another person, empathy is the understanding of those feelings. Sympathy can cripple us. Empathy should enable us to understand the feelings but remain able to react in a helpful way; to not get bogged down in the feeling emotionally.
This morning I was reading from 1Peter 4:10 and 11
“God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you. Are you called to be a speaker? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory in everything through Jesus Christ. All glory and power belong to him forever and ever. Amen.”
Compassion is one of those gifts that have to do with helping others. It is a feeling that helps us to stop and consider the needs of another. Not to try and become God for the world – we can’t. But to stop and consider the other person’s needs and how we can respond, without just brushing them off as none of our business – for that I believe God will provide the strength and energy to respond appropriately. I think responding compassionately to other people is a gift for which God provides the energy needed. “Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies.” Why? To have a hand in bringing about God’s kingdom; changing people by applying love and concern to the spots where they hurt. So that they can see Him. To give Him glory.