Friday, 15 February 2013

Grace Notes:Compassion

It is very easy to provide for those we care for and usually natural for parents especially to want to lavish love, attention and gifts on their children.

This is a biblical pattern after God's own heart.

Yet we can miss such a lot if we don't slow down sometimes and really notice what is going on around us - not just within our own circles.

 For instance, though we may prefer to close our eyes to the fact, there are a lot of needy people out there who are desperate for help and attention.

Some of them may be shouting and clamouring  -  possibly looking the worse for wear.

Some of them may be mumbling incoherently, heads bowed - while holding out a begging bowl or hat.

Some may be sitting on the pavement  -  trying to look purposeful while feeling invisible.

Some may be hurting deeply inside -  yet on the surface they can look just like you or me.

How are we supposed to act or react to their need?

Let's try not be quick to judge or condemn others.

It can often take something shocking in our own lives (or those close to us) to wake us up to the fact that at times we can all be hurting people who need to be recognised as such and given appropriate help and support.

Compassion isn't new though. The Bible story of  The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25 - 37 is probably familiar to many of us. Jesus uses it as an illustration to answer the question, "And who is my neighbour?"
"Love cannot be divided. If it is genuine it serves God and the neighbour in the same act. Or better, it sees God in the neighbour and the neighbour in God" ~ Carlo Carretto
That question is still valid today - particularly as we have all become 'global neighbours' to one another. I have previously been challenged in my thinking about compassion and the need of 'Reaching out a Hand' to others by reading 'Wrecked' by Jeff Goins. 

Another challenging and inspiring book has contributed to the process: 'Graffiti: scribbles from different sides of the street' by Alene Snodgrass. You won't be the same once you've read either of them as you will find yourself looking around more to see which need you could be helping to meet, maybe globally or locally.
"Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish" ~ Henri Nouwen
Sometimes the neediest people are right under our noses: our families and friends. After all, don't they say that "Compassion begins at home"?

It begs another uncomfortable question:Would we be those who would stay and offer assistance or would we just 'pass by on the other side'?

Helping others can be demanding, time-consuming and messy work.

A few months ago I had an opportunity to show compassion towards someone and, I'm ashamed to say - I completely flunked it. 

This was late one night, a few months ago, when voices disturbed my sleep. We live close to a pub and it is relatively common to hear late-night revellers dispersing homeward at weekends. Eventually, all other sounds faded apart from a persistent plaintive cry of "Help, help me!" 

Tucked up in bed as I was, aware that my Other Half sitting downstairs (an owl not a lark) would be immune to the sound (as he considerately wears headphones when listening to music/films at his preferred volume), I lay there listening and wondering what to do. 

How could I (seriously weakened by M.E and chronic sickness) go outside in my PJs in the cold - to find goodness knows what - and assist a guy who was potentially drunk and disorderly? Should I alert my Other Half? He would definitely be concerned, yet wary and worried about getting involved because of his own crippling anxieties and accompanying social phobia. Ordinary everyday encounters are hard enough for him - never mind such as this.

He may be a Hero to me in his daily love and care but he was far from 'Superman saves the day' material.

Thus went my reasoning. Thus went my ability to help - out the window to mingle with the cries. I did get up to take a peep but couldn't see a thing or tell precisely where the repeated lament was coming from.

Eventually, other voices were heard. People were coming to his aid. An ambulance was called. 

Eventually, my OH appeared and glanced out the window to see what all the commotion was about. The guy was taken care of with concern and compassion - by others.
I gave myself every excuse possible, but the bottom-line was I didn't act like Jesus would do in caring for another person. I put my own needs above theirs.

There must have been something better than just listening and doing nothing.

So why share my dismal story? 

In order to show that being compassionate isn't always easy or straightforward and we may have to exercise compassion toward ourselves for those times we mess up 

Compassion can be defined as:
  • The desire to ease another's suffering
  • A sympathetic awareness of another's distress combined with a desire to alleviate it
  • Showing kindness and caring through generosity and service
Being compassionate can take many forms:

Comforting a friend -  or anyone in need.

Visiting -  the sick, lonely, bereaved, elderly or housebound.

Sending cards -  to let others know we remember them.

Being a listening ear -  for a friend or stranger.

Giving our time and attention -  especially when it's inconvenient to do so.

Taking action -  to encourage and support others.

Giving practical help -  according to our abilities.

Preparing a meal - for those unable to face the task or without the means to do so.

Volunteering -  to assist in a community outreach whether local, national or international.

Praying for -  the needs of others.

Whatever our own particular set of circumstances may be, there are always ways, large or small,  in which we can help and support other people and show them grace and mercy in their time of need.

As this is the season of Lent, we could look for practical ways to observe it and help others at the same time. Over at A Deeper Story you can read about and participate in drinking just water in place of your usual drinks for 40 days, to facilitate wells for Uganda.

"Nothing that you have not given away will ever really be yours" ~ C.S. Lewis

After all, we may be the one who is suffering and in need one day.

I'm sure you can think of many other ways to be compassionate.

In this post I am linking up with Missional Women Faith-filled Friday

You can also connect with me on Twitter or follow on Facebook

Please feel free to share ways in which compassion has impacted your life as a recipient or trying to be a person of compassion in reaching out to others.


  1. Everyone needs compassion,
    Love that's never failing;
    Let mercy fall on me...
    This song comes to mind. Have compassion for yourself Joy. God has compassion for you, the circumstances. Knowing you even for the short time I have, I know that if anyone else shared that experience you would show compassion.

    1. So true. Love that song, by the way! Thanks for the reminder. We all need to exercise grace and compassion toward ourselves too. Despite our best intentions there will be times when we don't act like Jesus would. I didn't want to write as though I'd got it all sussed myself. Although I prayed for the guy, I didn't offer the practical assistance I could have done. A lesson learnt. Bless you, Mandy, for your support and friendship. It means a lot to me :) xx

  2. You're so open and honest. It touches me what you write in your blog. So we learn our own lessons in life. Thanks.

    1. Thank you, Jedidja, for your kind comment. We do indeed pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, and move on with better understanding, wisdom and grace from the lessons we have learned. Blessings :) xx