I think I have caught some sort of illness. I have a bad case of compassion weary. I don’t know if there is an actual medical term for what I have but I think I might need help. See everywhere I go I am asked for a donation, supplies, my time for a service project and a community effort to “give back”. I feel bombarded on all sides; school, work, grocery stores and even random phone calls asking me to send in my charitable donation. It has caused me to grow a bit weary and to rethink the definition of what compassion really is.
We live in a country that speaks the language of compassion and the “give back” philosophy at every corner. Our Government seems to preach a sort of political gospel of giving to the less fortunate through taxation and level playing fields. We set up service projects in our local community to help those in need. Our children are now required to put in hours of community service as a part of their education plan to fulfill some sort of compassion quota. We are encouraged on all sides to help the less fortunate and it is becoming a way of life. Now don’t get me wrong, I truly believe in helping others and I feel as a Christian I am commanded to give to the poor and to help those in need. However, are we really being compassionate or are we feeding some sort of self-centered need in us to show others that we are indeed thinking beyond ourselves?
I think compassion is more of a multi-faceted emotion than most of us (including myself) really haven’t grasped. I think of the scriptures and the way Jesus asked people to help those in need. In many cases, He asked them to give up everything to the poor and then they would be rewarded in heaven. There is a great difference between being good and showing kindness from the act of compassion. True compassion is seeing others through the eyes of Christ and wanting to help alleviate their suffering. It is not what we give to others but what we give up in ourselves. It is a spiritual depth of emotion that drives us to help a person in need.
Giving to your local homeless shelter or supporting that local school with supplies is a wonderful thing. Writing that donation amount or even giving up your time for a community event is good. However, let’s not confuse these things with the compassion Jesus talks about (the gut wrenching, giving up everything, self-less act of pure compassion). I think the point I am trying to make is let’s not make compassion into a rote ritualistic responsibility. Don’t let it be a political slogan or a party line vote. Our children should not be taught that compassion is a memo line on a report card or a resume, fulfilled by a specific amount of hours. We need to nurture an atmosphere of compassion where we are compelled to give from our hearts not our minds. Are we “giving back” because others will see our good deeds or are we alleviating suffering because something instinctual compels us to love our neighbor? True compassion is giving till it hurts while no one is watching because love is the compelling force.