As a father has compassion on His children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. Psalm 103:13
“Compassion erases the mistakes of life, just as the rubber end of a pencil removes the smudges on the paper. Perhaps this is how most of us really feel and think when we are honest with ourselves. Compassion is neither our central concern nor our primary stance in life. What we really desire is to make it in life, to get ahead, to be first, to be different. We want to forge our identities by carving out of ourselves niches life where we can maintain a safe distance from other. We do not aspire to suffer with others.
On the contrary, we develop methods and techniques that allow us to stay away from pain. Hospitals and funeral homes often become places to hide the sick and dead. Suffering is unattractive, if not repelling and disgusting. The less we are confronted with it, the better. This is our principal attitude, and in this context compassion means noo more than the small soft eraser at the end of a long hard pencil. To be compassionate means to be kind and gentle to those who get hurt by competition.
A miner who gets caught undergrouond evokes compassion; a student who breaks down under pressure of exams evokes compassion; a mother on welfare who does not have enough food and clothes for her children evokes compassion; an elderly woman who is dying alone in the anonymity of big city evokes compassion. But our primary frame of reference remains competition.”
Henri Nouwen in Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life (New York: Image Doubleday, 1983) 6-7.
For those of us who admit to being competitive, it may be hard for us to also be compassionate. And with COVID-19 we can use “social distance” as an excuse to keep a “safe distance” from anyone who suffers.
I am not saying you can’t be both competitive and compassionate (as I want there to be hope for people like me), but based on Nouwen’s thoughts here, it may be tough to have both of these traits. This is sobering for people who want to be generous.
Over the next week I will post quotes from this book as I am reading it seeking to grow in compassion and generosity in the second half of this year.
I must start with the confession that I think I tend to use an eraser with the mistakes of life. I am learning that the generous thing to do is to move toward pain and suffering.
LORD, thanks for having compassion on us. Help me treat others with the same compassion and move toward and not away from pain and suffering. Amen.Read more