Way of Wisdom
with Regina Sanders
Compassion’s Role In Love
Galatians 5:13-14; “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself..'”
Compassion blends and harmonizes the free outpouring of love with discipline. Compassion possesses this power by introducing the dimension of truth which is neither love or discipline and therefore can integrate the two. Truth is accessed through selflessness: rising above your ego and your predispositions, enables you to realize truth. A clear and objective picture of yours and others needs. The imbalance of love and discipline is a result of a subjective, hence limited perspective; introducing truth, by suspending personal prejudices, allows you to express your feelings in the healthiest manner.
This quality means beauty: it blends the differing colors of love and discipline, and this harmony makes it beautiful. For compassion to be complete it needs the inclusion of the following seven facets: love of compassion, discipline of compassion, compassion of compassion, endurance of compassion, humility of compassion, bonding of compassion, and sovereignty of compassion.
Examine the love aspect of compassion. Ask yourself: Is my compassion tender and loving or does it come across as pity? Is my sympathy condescending and patronizing? Even if my intention is otherwise, do others perceive it as such? Does my compassion overflow with love and warmth; is it expressed with enthusiasm, or is it static and lifeless?
For compassion to be effective and healthy it needs to be disciplined and focused. It requires discretion both to who you express compassion, and in the measure of the compassion itself. It is recognizing when compassion should be expressed and when it should be withheld or limited. Discipline in compassion is knowing that being truly compassionate sometimes requires withhold compassion.
Because compassion is not an expression of the bestower’s needs but a response to the recipient’s needs. Am I more compassionate with strangers than with close ones? If yes, why? Is the compassion coming from guilt? Does my compassion for others compromise my own needs? Am I helping others at the expense of helping myself? Perhaps the contrary is the case: Does my compassion for my family and close ones overshadow others needs? Is my compassion impulsive and careless? Do I assess the measure of compassion necessary for a given situation? Is it commensurate with the recipient’s needs?
Can I possibly be hurting him with my compassion? Does my compassion overwhelm others? Is it respectful? Do I give too much or too little? Do others take advantage of my compassionate nature? When I see a needy person do I impetuously express compassion out of guilt or pity without any discretion? Do I commit the “crime” of compassion by helping him with something harmful (give him money to buy a harmful substance etc.)? Do I apply myself to determine this person’s needs and help him in the best way possible?
Examine the compassion of compassion. The expression of compassion and its intensity. True compassion is limitless. It is not an extension of your needs and defined by your limited perspective. Compassion for another is achieved by having a selfless attitude, rising above yourself and placing yourself in the other person’s situation and experience. Am I prepared and able to do that? If not, why? Do I express and actualize the compassion and empathy in my heart? What blocks me from expressing it? Am I locked in any way? Is my compassion compassionate or self-serving?
Test yourself by seeing if you express compassion even when you don’t feel guilty. Does my compassion come from a sense of duty or is it frivolous? On the other hand: Is my compassion alive; does it resound with vitality, or is it expressed only out of obligation? Is my compassion only a result of being a creature of habit who feels badly when another suffers, or do I actually apply myself to examine and refine my compassion, observing it’s limitations and forms of expression? How do I express compassion? Is my compassion beautiful? Is it well rounded? Does it contain the other six elements of compassion, without which my full compassion remains unrealized.
Is my compassion enduring and consistent? Is it reliable or whimsical? Does it prevail among other forces in my life? Do I have the capacity to be compassionate even when I’m busy with other activities or only when it’s comfortable for me? Am I ready to stand up and fight for another?
Compassion must include humility for it not to be condescending and pretentious. Honor is recognizing that my ability to be compassionate and giving does not make me better than the recipient; it is the acknowledgement and appreciation that by creating one who needs compassion God gave me the gift of being able to bestow compassion. Thus there is no place for haughtiness in compassion. Do I feel superior because I am compassionate? Do I look down at those that need my compassion? Am I humble and thankful to God for giving me the ability to have compassion for others?
For compassion to be fully realized, it needs bonding. It requires creating a channel between giver and receiver. A mutuality that extends beyond the moment of need. A bond that continues to live on. That is the most gratifying result of true compassion. Do you bond with the one you have compassion for, or do you remain apart? Does your interaction achieve anything beyond a single act of sympathy?
Examine the dignity of your compassion. For compassion to be complete it must recognize and appreciate individual sovereignty. It should boost self-esteem and cultivate human dignity. Both your own dignity and the dignity of the one benefiting from your compassion. Is my compassion expressed in a dignified manner? Do I manifest and emphasize majesty in my compassion? Does it elicit dignity in others? Do I recognize the fact that when I experience compassion as dignified it will reflect reciprocally in the one who receives compassion?
When helping someone extend yourself in the fullest way; offer a smile or a loving gesture. Express your compassion in a focused and constructive manner by addressing someone’s specific needs. Express your compassion in a new way that goes beyond your previous limitations: express it towards someone to whom you have been callous. In the middle of the busy day take a moment and call someone that needs a compassionate word. Defend someone who is in need of sympathy even if it’s not a popular position. Express compassion in an anonymous fashion, not taking any personal credit. Ensure that something eternal is built as a result of your compassion. Rather than just giving them charity help them help themselves in a fashion that strengthens their dignity.
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