Compassion, these days, is a rare commodity. It’s not natural for us to be compassionate because we are, by nature, selfish. It goes against our grain to think of others before thinking of ourselves. I guess we just differ in our levels of being compassionate or not. In the same way that we have different levels of selfishness. I believe that compassion is the antithesis of selfishness.
Mother Teresa comes to mind easily when I think of the word “compassionate.” She shocked the world with her brand of compassion. We were aghast at the way she’d recklessly fling herself at people who were obviously diseased or dying of God knows what. Even if we never admit it, she put us to shame with her selflessness, her absolute lack of aversion for the unwashed and the pitifully abandoned.
While many of us instinctively turn away when we see someone in a revolting condition, Mother Teresa did the exact opposite. She would, instead, swiftly reach out to embrace and hold close the person in distress, giving them the warm, reassuring comfort of a human touch before she even gave them medical attention.
She was passionately and extravagantly compassionate.
She infected others with her love for the poorest of the poor, the hungriest of the hungry, the ugliest of the ugly, the sickest of the sick. She infected others with her selflessness. Yet she awed us even more by shunning any praise or accolades. She did not take any credit for her stunning acts of mercy. She never called attention to herself. Over and above her phenomenal compassion, Mother Teresa always pointed others to Christ.
I believe that compassion is, first of all, a by-product of love. It’s a proof of love. A manifestation of love. Even if you tell someone a million times that you love him/her, but don’t show any compassion to that person, then you don’t really love him/her. That’s the bottom line.
Compassion means “to suffer with.” It means that showing compassion is sacrificial. It will always cost us something — big or small. Being compassionate can be merely inconvenient.
Or it can require considerable sacrifice and hard work for the long haul — like taking care of a sick parent, family member, or friend; or working to alleviate the plight of the poor, or fighting for justice for those who have no means to help themselves.
Compassion is best seen when the person we’re helping has no means whatsoever to repay us.
When you decide, for example, to bring your neighbor to the hospital in the dead of night because he’s bleeding or vomiting his guts out — that’s compassion. It means you’re willing that your car seats be stained with blood. Or that after you’ve cleaned up the vomit in your car (definitely not a happy thought), the stench could stay for weeks or months. It means you might have to be bled on, vomited on, died on, because you agreed to bring your neighbor to the ER. If you’re willing to take all that and who knows what more to help a neighbor, that’s compassion!
Being compassionate also means that in the process of helping someone, we might have to give away some money. We might have to take over someone’s responsibilities and work load because he/she got sick. We might have to give up something valuable. We might have to make some major adjustments in our schedules. We might have to suffer a loss of opportunity. We might have to carry some extra-heavy weight for someone. Or we might have to give up our personal comfort.
My family and I have been the recipient of compassion countless times — from close friends; from not-so-close friends, and even strangers!
Decades ago, when I was still in the corporate world, one of my bosses carried my bags while we were on a business trip because I was two months pregnant. We had to attend this conference in Chicago and no one could take our place. My boss showed me lots of compassion during that trip — at considerable inconvenience to him.
Another time, a contractor-friend sent us truckloads of form lumber while we were building our house. He didn’t charge us a cent!
And then there was that time when two friends offered to put my mom and my husband’s mom as beneficiaries in their X-deal with one of the biggest hospitals in Manila. My mom was confined twice and the hospital bills hit six figures both times — the bills were charged to our friends’ account. Even the last ambulance service for my mom before she passed away was all covered by our friends’ x-deal. That’s compassion! And to think we never even thought of it, or asked for it.
The Bible says, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
When we are compassionate, we bring honor to the name of Christ. When we claim we are Christian but respond to others in a detached, exacting, self-protective way, then the love of Christ is not seen in us.
What a sad, sad day that is for the One Who keeps showing us compassion.