The Compassion We Need

Have you tuned-in lately to the running play-by-play commentary on your life that is constantly blaring away in your heart and mind?  24/7/365, whether we’re conscious of it or not, harsh natter and chatter away with messages which belittle and berate us.  

When we see ourselves in the mirror, these are the voices that point-out the pimples or the wrinkles, the bad hair or gray hair or missing hair or the hair growing in all the wrong places, and all those parts of our bodies that have spread-out, softened, and sagged. 

When we try something new or dare to speak up in a tough situation, these are the voices that whisper, “you have lost your mind,” and ask, “Who do you think you are?” and remind us we might not be as smart as we think we are.

When we fail, these are the voices that shout, “we told you so” and then sit us down for a review of all the things we could have differently or should have done better. 

When we succeed, they caution us about getting too big for our britches, above our raising, and becoming conceited. 

When we feel lonely, they tell us that we aren’t worth loving.  

These voices jaundice and poison our vision of ourselves; and, we see ourselves so critically, we see other people condemningly, negatively and narrowly. 

We see competitors—people above us or near us on the ladder of achievement—and feel envy and jealousy. 

We see people with power over us and feel fear and resentment. 

We see people who have made it, and their success makes us feel small and inadequate. 

We see people who indifferent to us, who overlook and discount us, and we feel insignificant and angry.  

We see people who don’t seem to be as smart or sophisticated as we think we are, and we feel superior to them. 

We see people whose ideas, convictions, and experiences are different from ours, and we feel confused and threatened.

We can learn to see ourselves and other with compassion.  Jesus shows us how.  There’s a simple, breathtaking sentence in the Gospel of Matthew:  “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

The more I know about the human heart—my heart—the more grateful I grow for that compassion.  He knows what it is like to live in our skin, to be hungry and thirsty, to surge with energy and to fall exhausted, to feel desire and experience frustration, to explore bright possibilities and face bitter limits, to dream and to fail, to love and to grieve, to laugh and to cry.  

He has compassion for us: he embraces our trembling hearts, gentles our fears, quiets our anxieties, releases us from our guilt, unchains us from our despair, and embraces our loneliness. 

He has mercy for us.  All of us.  With him, from him, and in him, we can learn and live the ways of compassion for ourselves and for everyone. 

Lord knows (he really does), we need it.