I’ve been a Christian for most of my life, and all of my adult life. I’d heard the word used plenty of times, and as an avid reader I thought I had a handle on its definition.
But I guess I never really looked up the word–I assumed that compassion was something we had for others when they were suffering. We were fine, but they needed help–therefore, we should feel compassionate toward them.
A homeless man or woman on the street.
A family who can’t afford groceries.
A widow who’s living alone.
These are people, I used to think, who deserved our compassion.
But not anymore.
I’m looking at the world a little differently now. From my pew in church, driving around town, or even just on a walk–I’m no longer building the mental “barrier” between myself and the rest of the world. No longer am I approaching situations with an “us” and “them” mentality. It’s “us.” Period.
Having compassion means “suffering with” someone. I’m certainly not supposed to watch as injustice runs rampant throughout the world, but I’m also not supposed to feel better about giving money, time, or effort to those in need.
Did you catch that?
I am not supposed to feel better for helping those around me. The “warm fuzzies” I feel aren’t compassion–they’re a human reaction to a Godlike phenomenon, but that doesn’t mean I’m feeling compassion.
Compassion, as Jeff puts it, would be struggling with them; giving until it hurts and then giving some more because no matter what I do, there will always be more suffering and pain. Suffering with someone means to understand their trials, at least on a bare, surface level.
It’s challenging to try to say that what I’ve done–what we’ve all done–isn’t quite enough for the world, but it would be true. I don’t want to feel like the more I give, the less I’ve given, but it’s probably true.
I believe “challenging” is good
I’ve always loved the semantic difference between the words “hard” and “difficult.” Back when I was in high school band, I had a student teacher who was a fantastic band director–an inspiration. He took me to lunch at the end of the semester and we talked about music, teaching, and the challenge of trying to inspire youth.
He said the best advice he could give me is to remove the word “hard” from my vocabulary and replace it with “difficult.”
The difference might be semantics, he explained, but if you tell a kid something is “hard,” there’s a great chance they’ll assume that means they can’t do it. On the other hand, if you tell a student something is “difficult,” there’s more of an implication of a challenge–and usually they’ll jump in head first to accomplish the task.
Challenges are good–they help us grow, write better, live well, and create businesses worth creating. Challenges let us see where we’ve been; what we’ve accomplished.
Jeff believes one of the greatest challenges we should face in our lives is the challenge of getting, and being, wrecked. Again and again, over and over, until “wrecked” becomes a lifestyle choice.
I have to agree.
It’s an interesting way to look at compassion–the challenge of wrecking ourselves so we can truly live. It’s not something that sits well with me–I like comfortable, easy, and unchanged.
But I know that’s the difference between something that’s hard and something that’s difficult. I’ll choose the difficult compassion any day.
Grab the book, Wrecked, from Amazon today!