Compassion! What a wonderful attribute! Are you aware of the fact that the word, compassion, appears 98 times in the New American Standard Bible. And yet it is an emotion often lacking in many of God’s children, me included. I hate to admit it, but in so many situations, I fail miserably. And not only me but, sadly, it seems to me that today’s society is nearly devoid of compassion. So, the next questions might be, “What does compassion really mean? What does it mean to have compassion on someone?” Good questions. The more I read the Holy Scriptures, the more I realize how much true compassion is like a fine, rare diamond. A perfectly cut diamond has many brilliant facets; and the more facets, the better! The most brilliant of diamonds are comprised of 58 perfectly defined facets. Perhaps the same could be said of compassion. We begin to pick up on a few of such facets in the Hebrew Lexicon,where compassion is defined, ‘TO BE SOFT, TO LOVE’. It continues, ‘The primary idea appears to be ‘CHERISHING, SOOTHING, and in a GENTLE EMOTION OF THE MIND’. It is often used as the love of parents toward their children and as the compassion of God towards men. It is also used as OBTAINING MERCY.
If I am correctly interpreting the Scriptures I would think that many more beautiful attributes (facets) could also fall into the broad category of compassion: For instance:
In Exodus 34:6, the LORD God is described as “compassionate and GRACIOUS, SLOW TO ANGER and ABOUNDING IN LOVING KINDNESS AND TRUTH (NASB);”
In Luke 10:33 we read that a good Samaritan saw a poor, wounded stranger lying by the side of the road and, as a Godly CAREGIVER “had compassion on him (NASB)”.
In Ephesians 4:1-2, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all “HUMILITY AND GENTLENESS, WITH PATIENCE, SHOWING TOLERANCE FOR ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE (NASB),”
In Ephesians 4:32, we see compassion further defined, “BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER, TENDER HEARTED, FORGIVING EACH OTHER, JUST AS GOD IN CHRIST ALSO HAS FORGIVEN YOU (NASB).”
My Goodness, I must confess that I fall so short in all those attributes. I am so unlike Christ in those areas. There are so many times when I allow frustration to take over my emotions rather than treating those situations with compassion. For instance:
When the red light turns green and the car in front of me doesn’t move;
Or when I am standing in the check-out line at the grocery store, and while all the other lines clear out, the person in front of me brings everything to a screeching halt while searching through her myriad of coupons and food stamps or waiting for a price check;
Or when I hold the door open for a lady while she casually walks through, totally ignoring me and my (self-described) thoughtful act of kindness;
Or when the nurse puts me in a stark examining room where I have to wait, and wait, and wait until the doctor finally makes his/her grand appearance. (I think It’s very apropos that their reception areas are called ‘waiting rooms’. On the other hand, perhaps rather than referring to us as patients, we would be more aptly described as ‘impatients’
Or (and this is really critical) when my dear sweet wife’s dementia causes her to do uncharacteristic, unpleasant, unseemly things that so often can be so irritating to me.
Hmm, looking at all these areas that cause unmitigated, unnecessary, unrewarding frustration in my life, I suddenly realized that I am placing the blame on other people, many of whom are strangers to me, perhaps many dealing with real problems totally unknown to me. I have no earthly idea what may be going on in their lives. Their actions may or may not be avoidable—yet, many times, if truth be told, I am prejudging them without the benefit of the facts. Question! If I was aware that the person in front of me at the red light was dealing with an unavoidable problem, would I have a different attitude ? Would it make any difference to me if I knew the person in front of me in the grocery line was struggling to make ends meet, having to squeeze every item into her basket that she could afford within her meager budget? What if the lady who ignored my courtesy in opening the door for her wasn’t normally rude or thankless; but was merely preoccupied at the moment, worrying about an errant child, or a problem in her marriage, or a personal illness, or had just been laid off, or… or… or …? Would I still feel the same if I knew the doctor who kept me waiting in his examination room was tied up searching for a cure for a patient whose ailment was much more critical than mine?
Without the benefit of knowing all the facts, how dare me to view all these perceived inconveniences with impatience and contempt! My irritation in no way alleviates the circumstance. It only hurts me. My prejudice in such instances only serves to rob me of my joy. No matter whether such people are just naturally being rude and thoughtless, or acting out of necessity, my life would be so much better if I viewed them with patience and compassion rather than with contempt and frustration. When the Lord exhorts me to view others with compassion, He is not necessarily doing it for their sake; but asking that of me knowing it would make my life so much more enjoyable and abundant.
And Lord knows my dear wife would never, ever do the things that she does (especially the things that I at times find to be so irritating or frustrating) if she was not living within the throes of dementia. Her life’s goals of being the best she could be have long since fallen by the wayside. If she was aware of her bizarre, unseemly actions, she would be unbelievably humiliated and embarrassed. I have no doubt that she had much rather be dead than to stoop to the extreme levels of disarray in which she finds herself. And yet, my response to her unseemly actions often lacks the compassion that her situation rightly deserves. Nevertheless, I often react to her misdeeds with impatience and frustration.
So, in view of my natural bent toward impatience and intolerance, my prayer should be, “Dear Lord, please forgive me for being so easily frustrated and irritable. Please increase my compassion, that my joy might be increased, and that, most of all, I might be more like you. In Jesus’ name, amen!”