Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Compassion, pain, and listening

I had an interesting conversation yesterday about compassion. What is compassion really? I want so badly to live a life of grace. To care for the afflicted and broken hearted. But what is care? Real care? The kind of care that will make a difference. It is true that you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Is giving him a fish compassion or is it prolonging his agony?

Sometimes compassion is sharp. It cuts away at the lies that hold us captive. Jesus was sharp sometimes. He overturned tables and made a whip of cords. Did his compassion leave him in those times? I don't think so. Many times it is not compassionate to remove a person's pain. Pain can be a gift. It is certainly a motivator.

So what is compassion? (listening) what I hear is that compassion is doing the hard work of relationship. It is walking into the conflict. Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." It's interesting that it says as. Iron sharpens iron but rubbing and grating against it... It doesn't feel like friendships can hold up under such conditions. (listening) Wow, the picture I have is of a very fine line between the selfish need to "fix" someone and the compassionate gift of grating. One is standing up for and defending a friend even from themselves. The other is a huge violation of boundaries. God how can you tell the difference? (listening) The only answer I get is "by listening". Keeping my ears focused the gentle nudges of the Spirit.

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