Monday, November 5, 2007

Compassion or Not?

What is Compassion?

My definition of compassion has been challenged; mixed up, mashed, and kneaded until it no longer resembles that which once was. You see, I thought compassion was more about me than anything else... about me feeling sorry for another, as if my 'feeling sorry' actually accomplished anything. My attempts at compassion were easy for me, my attempts at compassion never required me to get my hands dirty.

The most beautiful, compelling definition of compassion was introduced to me on another blog called Seeking the Forgotten. The author lives in Guatemala. She is in the trenches; loving and making a difference in the lives of hurting, lonely children. She has pushed me to think deeper about compassion on several occasions through the pictures and writing on her blog. I only know who she is through her blog, we've never met. Isn't it interesting the way God uses a complete stranger and the internet to challenge very deeply-held beliefs about His work?

The definition she shared was attributed to Henri Nouwen and others when I searched on the web. Here is the definition:

"Compassion ~ is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull - .....On the contrary, compassion means going to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there. God's compassion is total, absolute, unconditional, without reservation. It is the compassion of one who keeps going to the most forgotten corners of the world, and who cannot rest as long as he knows that there are still human beings with tears in their eyes."
My self-righteous thoughts about compassion are nipped right in the bud when I read this. What about you? Is compassion something reserved for those few who are 'called' to missions work overseas? Or is compassion something we are all called to as followers of Jesus? Aren't there plenty of opportunities for real, authentic compassion right in front of our eyes?

Is compassion something to only think about a few times per year as we write a check for missions or scan the Angel Tree? Or is compassion a lifestyle, a way of existing?

I'm challenged here... am I really willing to relinquish my 'privileged' position here in my comfy world and extend a hand horizontally to another who might not look, smell or understand anything common to me?

1 comment:

H said...

Deep thoughts, lady. An excellent challenge...