Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Kindness of Compassion

I will be focusing on Patience and Kindness for a while here. I have focused on the compassion with which I am encouraged to clothe myself.
Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
I should clothe myself with compassion and kindness, along with gentleness and patience, as well as humility as a result of the holiness and love I receive as one of God's chosen people. It's not really a choice. It's a response. As I respond with compassion towards my fellow man (my daughter, my husband, my extended family, friends, acquaintances, rivals), I see them as no better than myself (humbly), as well as deserving of God's grace, love, and mercy, which I have received for myself.

I don't know why I never saw the compassion as a precursor to kindness and patience, but it certainly has been for me as I've meditated on it this last week.1

Dictionary.com defines compassion as a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. At first, I tried to separate out the suffering, to define compassion for myself as a general kindhearted attitude towards others, but I am beginning to see that the suffering is key. Aren't we all suffering? We suffer because we all struggle with sin, in one way or another. One's sin could be pride, another's could be bitterness, another's could be jealousy, or malice or unforgiveness. If I have deep sympathy towards the person who is battling pride, leading to a self-righteous attitude or a critical spirit, I will not see them in the same way than if I am simply reacting to their critical spirit. If I see that my daughter struggles to obey because of a sin nature that she is trying to overcome, then I have compassion on her and react with kindness, instead of impatience at her continual failings.
I Peter 3:8
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
Love is the other foundation. Perhaps it is the other side of simply trying to alleviate suffering with love just for the sake of love--not because it is deserved or returned, but because it is commanded to me. Again the humility is essential. I cannot see myself as better or more deserving or wronged in the equation. I need to see myself as a vessel used to love and support others.

Is this too much? Is it over the top and hard to believe? If so, let me know. If not, let me know how seeing others compassionately has helped you to treat them with patience and kindness.


Heather said...

I think you may be on to something. I think this is why it is important to learn each other's story. If I see just the veneer, just the bottle or just the fill-in-the-blank, then tsk, tsk, tsk. But if I know your story, I may learn that I could just as easily be there and you could just as easily be here, with all of my faults and mean words and sin. This is not to say that we are all just victims of our situation. But, as you said, we are all equally undeserving of God's love.

Susanne said...

I think, like you said humility is essential. In not thinking ourselves better than others we can allow God's compassion to move through us and then respond with kindness. The bible tells us Jesus was moved with compassion and then He responded to the crowds around Him.

Much to think on Jennifer!

Linda said...

I've come to you via Kathleen Marie's blog. I love your post - so thoughtful. I think you are right. Compassion seems to come easily to me - but it's the pride and the selfishness I need to work on. It is easy for me to identify with another's failings or needs or trials - not so easy to do something about it. I believe you are right - they all go hand in hand. I think that's the way God designed it all.

Jen Rouse said...

Thanks for your faithful edification in Christ!

Barb said...

There's a lot to think about here, Jennifer, and no, it's not over the top or too much. It's just simply true. If we can't feel compassion for each other, how can we commune with honesty. They go hand in hand.

L.L. Barkat said...

I agree that compassion is the precursor to kindness and patience. This thought of yours takes me back to some of the tense moments I've had with my kids... when I was unkind and impatient... I realized at some point it was my lack of empathy that turned me upside down and backwards in my responses.