Category Archives: showing compassion

The Humility of Compassion

I normally don’t post twice in one day, but I just had an experience I need to share. It relates to a larger characteristic I wish I would see more of.

My boss is gone on vacation this week, so I have been taking advantage of the time and walking around the campus at Myjob twice a day. This afternoon, as I was walking by one of the medical buildings, I saw a young family in front of me. I expected them to turn into one of the buildings, but they kept going. I soon realized they were lost. I asked if I could help them find something. When they responded in the affirmative, I took them to where they needed to go. She was pregnant and they were going to her doctor’s appointment. I made sure we took the ‘inside way’ to the correct medical building because it’s turning into a hot day here in Mytown and I knew she’d be uncomfortable continuing to walk outside.

So why was this act humbling and compassionate? The family did not know English very well. They had a map and a confirmation receipt for the mother’s doctor’s appointment. I had to rely on them to tell me where they needed to go. In spite of what I tell my children, I don’t know everything. It was humbling to follow their lead. Why compassionate? The family was lost and it was hot outside – I made sure they found their way and didn’t get lost. I told the dad I was taking him through the building because it was cooler for his family.

There are many people who wrap their acts of compassion in the banner of self-promotion. “Look what I did to help this person or this animal. Aren’t I such a wonderful person?!” Jesus told the story of two men who went to the synagogue to pray – one man was rich and known for his riches. The other man was a tax collector and people despised him. The rich man prayed in a loud voice so the room full of people could hear him. “Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like the sinners – adulterers, tax collectors, cheaters. See how I fast twice a day and give my tithes to the church!” The tax collector stood in a back corner of the room and bowed his head in shame. “Oh, God. Be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” (Luke 18:10-13) Jesus admonished His disciples and said the tax collector was the better of the two men. Why? Because he prayed (acted) in humility.

When we act out of compassion, we experience humility when we quietly perform our deed. The very action of compassion itself is humbling because we must step outside of our comfort zone to do what we know is right. Was it right to let that family continue to wander around in the hot sun when the mom was so pregnant? No, of course not! The right thing to do was to make sure they got into a cool building and found the doctor’s office. You might say, “Well, that’s just being kind!” Yes, it is. What you don’t know is that this family was of an ethnicity I have expressed a strong dislike for in the past. I had to shove that aside and ask, “How may I be of service to you?”

Humility is stepping outside of ourselves and putting others first. Compassion is showing care for another person (or animal) by serving them as Christ served us. (Matthew 20:28: ‘The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. . . .”) Don’t be afraid to humble yourself and serve others in the love of Christ. Stay tuned. . . .

The Last Day of Your Life

Whenever I hear of a loss of life, whatever the situation, I always think, “Did they (the people involved) know that was going to be their last day on earth?” Most likely, the answer is “No”. I know this may be a rather macabre subject, but I have a purpose in this post.

The years and days leading up to my divorce were dark – I have shared before that I walked around angry all the time. I was bitter, easily agitated, and not very much fun to be around. Some folks would have cheered my passing during that time! I wasn’t much better immediately following the divorce.

It takes me 40 minutes to get to work since I moved in with Cycle Dude. That gives me a great deal of time to pray, think about life and listen to worship music. This morning on my way in to work, I thought about the phrase, “The Last Day of Your Life” and what it means. I thought, what would most people do if they knew when they woke up this morning that it was the last day of their lives? Would they be more compassionate, more kind and generous? Then I thought, we ought to live our lives like that anyway.

Why wait until death is near to be a good person? To have faith in God? To show unconditional love to others? We should live each day like it’s our last. Yes, it’s easy to get angry, to be irritated by the hatred and evil we see around us. But what if we lived each day with a little more compassion, with a kind word on our lips, with a grateful and generous heart? We may not make a difference in the entire world, but we will make a difference in our small corner of the world.

Psalm 90, verse 12 states: “Teach us to number our days, that we may have a heart of wisdom.” And again in Psalm 139, verse 16: “You saw my unformed body. . . You knew the number of my days before there was one of them. . . .”. Whether or not we know the number of our days, God knows. We are to live our lives with wisdom, being selfless instead of being selfish. Instead of living our days for ourselves – in a self-centered, grab-all-I-can for me, me, me lifestyle – why don’t we live our lives in such a way that shows the love of God, or our belief in the goodness of humanity? Whenever we depart this world, we will leave all our stuff behind. I don’t want to be remembered for amount of stuff I had, but for the amount of love I showed. Stay tuned. . . .

Encouragement

One of my friends is going through a rough time at his job. Don’t get me wrong, he loves his job and does not intend to leave over the situation. However, he feels he is being unfairly singled out by some of his subordinates. We talked for a bit this morning. I reminded him that he is being singled out because he is ‘administration’ and those in authority are the most visible to employees with an axe to grind. As a fellow Jesus follower, I reminded him that other people are watching him – how is he going to handle this situation with his subordinates? If he talks the talk of being a Christian, is he going to walk the walk when the walking gets hard?

I also reminded him that he is not in his position of authority by chance. Like Mordecai told Esther (in the Old Testament Book of Esther), “You are here for such a time as this”. Why is my friend in a position of authority at his job? He told me that one of his sons knows how stressful his job can be, so his son is watching how his father deals with the job stress. One of my friend’s subordinates is also watching him for the same reason as his son – how is my friend going to handle the rough situations that come his way? I told my friend that stressful situations give us an opportunity to run to God, to lay down our fears and anxieties before Him and let Him take care of them.

As I was talking to my friend, I remembered the two friends who helped me through my divorce and the years following. One of them was an encourager – she would read scripture to me, remind me of God’s grace, and listen to my wounded soul. She has a wonderful gift for encouraging others – in word and in deed.

If you are recently divorced, you may not feel like reaching into someone else’s life and encouraging them. You may wonder if you will ever be able to heal to the point of being able to encourage another person. I took a few moments this morning to pray with my friend. It was a small, sixty-second prayer, but he said it meant the world to him. Did I start my day knowing or asking that I would have the opportunity to encourage my friend? No. But I did know that as a follower of Jesus, I can pray for and encourage others, no matter how small my part might be. Take heart, dear one. You may never know the value that your few encouraging words may have in another’s life. Stay tuned . . . .

The Number of Our Days

I found out this morning that a former boss passed away back in November. She died of a stroke. She was only 45 years old. I am still in shock. She was a great boss.

We never know when we wake up in the morning if this will be our last day on earth. We never know what’s going to happen. God numbers our days. He alone knows how many we have. How do we live our lives in such a manner that we will be prepared for ‘the day’ when it comes?

1. Banish anger and bitterness: For most of my marriage, I was a very angry person. I woke up angry, stayed angry throughout the day and went to bed angry. After my divorce, I became incredibly bitter. Were my emotions affecting ex, the person they were directed to? Heavens, no! Those negative emotions were killing me! Holding onto anger and bitterness is senseless. Let it go.

2. Practice random acts of kindness: Next time you’re at the grocery store and there is an elderly person ahead of or behind you, pay for their groceries. Donate some dog or cat food to your nearest animal shelter. Rake the leaves in your neighbor’s yard. Go out of your way to be kind to a stranger.

3. Be generous with your time, money and resources: Do you have enough to live on – to cover your needs (not necessarily your wants)? Do you find that you have several hours of free time on the weekend? Donate to a cause, volunteer, take your unwanted stuff to a local thrift store. Whatever you have you can’t take with you. You may as well use it up while you’re still living!

4. Cultivate compassion: Don’t be so quick to lose your temper or to speak out of turn. Resolve to listen to others, to hear their heart, their passion and their dreams. Be an encouragement to others. Be quick to serve others.

5. Smile more: I think if more people smiled, it would lighten the mood that so often seems to bring us down. Have you ever watched the other drivers on your way to work? Those who are not on their phone are usually scowling. Smile in rush hour traffic. Smile as you walk down the hallway at work. Smile when you answer the phone! Smile – it increases your face value and makes people wonder what you’re up to.

6. Say “I love you”: Every day before Cycle Dude goes to work, I tell him I love him. Every time I talk to one of my children, my mom or my siblings, I tell them I love them. Do not hesitate to tell those you love that you love them. Don’t worry if it sounds ‘sappy’. You may not get another chance.

Life is waaay to short to spend it ill-tempered, harboring a grudge, hoarding your stuff or looking like an old sourpuss! Make your family and friends glad to know you! Leave them with good memories. Live one day at a time because it may be the last one you have. Stay tuned . . .

What Do You Say?

A close family member recently experienced a miscarriage. I have experienced two miscarriages – one on New Year’s Day 1988 and the other seven months later in the middle of July, 1988. I spoke to this family member’s dad last night. He told me, “We don’t know what to say to her. What do you say?” I advised him on what NOT to say – things like, “You’ll have more children”, “God needed another angel”, “It was for the best”. Well-meaning people often do not know what to say, so they blurt out stupid things. Some will even quote scriptural platitudes in the hopes of providing comfort.

Often times, the best thing to say is very little, or “I’m here if you want to talk”. When you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Show the woman who is facing the miscarriage that you care – take her a meal, send a nice card, do something for her (clean her house, do her laundry, etc.).

Sometimes the loss of a miscarriage can be so devastating that the women can’t seem to get back into the swing of things. The risk of depression is very high. Be kind and gentle to the one who has experienced a miscarriage. Her husband or significant other is affected as well. He may feel helpless in the situation. Let him know his has your ear, too. Be there to offer comfort in the form of listening and don’t try to ‘fix it’. Coping with the loss of a miscarriage takes time to get over – just like any loss one experiences.

A woman and her family who face a miscarriage may want to memorialize the child. How they would do this depends on the age of the child.

  • If the little one was 12 weeks in utero or less, they may want to do something small to say goodbye – plant a tree or flowers, read a special poem or writing, release a balloon at a location that is special to them. Whatever they choose should signify the acknowledgement of the preciousness of that little life and help them gain closure.
  • If the child was older in utero, up until 9 months, the family will most likely want to have a funeral or a memorial service for the child. If they have already planned for the baby’s arrival, it will be difficult for them to go home to an empty nursery. They will experience grief in its different stages.

When I experienced my first miscarriage, it took me years to be able to watch the Rose Bowl Parade and not cry (we were watching the parade prior to the miscarriage). I probably should have gone to see a therapist, but never thought about it. At the time, it seemed that I just had to suck it up and get through it.

Bottom line –  be kind and gentle, be willing to listen to the pain, don’t try to fix it, don’t be a geyser of cliches or scripture platitudes. Give the couple time to heal. Love them and be there in the days, months and even years after the miscarriage to help them walk through a very painful time. Stay tuned . . . .

Just Get Over It!

Those are the four harshest, most heartless words one can say to someone who has been through a traumatic experience like divorce. I had several people say that to me. I wanted to punch them in the face. Unless you have been through a divorce yourself, you have no idea what it’s like to have your world turned upside-down due to the infidelity, betrayal, abuse or addiction from someone you thought loved you. You pledge your devotion to this person and they stab you in the heart.

One does not ‘just get over it’ when one’s heart has been broken, one’s soul has been seared and one has been kicked in the gut time and time again. I tried to give my ex the benefit of the doubt, yet he still continued to act out, lie and give in to his addiction. He refused to get help. I finally gave up when I realized he would never take responsibility for his actions and continue to blame me, his parents and his children for his issues.

Those four words do not help at all. I understand that it’s frustrating to walk with someone through emotional pain and not seem to see any sign of things getting better for them. Unless you’ve walked where they are walking, you will never understand the depth of the pain. Why do 22 soldiers a day commit suicide? Because they are trying to get away from the pain they have experienced and continue to experience! Emotional pain goes far deeper than any physical pain ever can.

If you are walking with someone through the pain of divorce (or other difficult situation), purge the phrase, “Just get over it!” from your vocabulary! Try phrases like, “I’m here if you need to talk”, “How about if I buy you dinner this evening?”, “Let’s go take a walk”, etc. Let your countenance be gentle toward the one experiencing divorce or difficulty, but let your words be gentler still. Stay tuned . . .

Compassion in the Midst of Violence

The flags here at Myjob are flying half-staff again today. It seems as if they have been at half-staff for a while – Paris, Brussels, Dallas, Nice and now Baton Rouge. Police are shrouding their badges here to honor their fallen comrades in other cities. It seems that every time I turn on the TV, there is news of another shooting – blacks being shot by police, terrorists attacking innocents, accidental shootings, incidents of workplace violence.

It’s easy to be angry about the violence that has gripped our lives recently. It’s easy to say, “Ban all guns!” It’s easy to strike out in protest. But is it easy to have compassion in the midst of the violence? How do we have compassion on those who perpetrate the violence? How do we have compassion for the victims and their families?

Jesus walked this earth during a very violent time. The Romans were in control and the Jews hated the Romans. Zealots everywhere were instigating violence against the occupiers – the Romans. Luke, Chapter 23 chronicles the scene as Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea. The excited mob calls for Jesus’ crucifixion and cries out for the release of Barabbas, of whom the passage says, “Barabbas had been thrown into prison for insurrection in the city and for murder.” Yet, Jesus has compassion – for the mob, for Barabbas, for the two thieves between whom He was killed.

How do we have compassion? We have compassion through prayer, through empathy, through understanding. I am not saying we are to condone the violence or the perpetrators’ ideology that would lead them to commit such violent acts. Why do people commit such heinous acts like the ones we have witnessed lately? Disenfranchisement, persecution, inequality, religious fervor – these are all reasons that have been given for violent acts. We must work together as a society to combat these reasons.

I agree that sometimes fighting disenfranchisement, persecution and inequality is not easy. At times, there are no easy solutions. That’s why we need to work together in our communities – to hear the different voices and solutions. What about religious fervor – how do we stop the attacks from groups like ISIS? I don’t know and I wish I did. We cannot hide our heads in the sand or throw up our hands in defeat. We must work together.

Can we agree to affect one community at a time, one day at a time? The violence is not something that will change overnight, but we have to start somewhere. Resolve today that you will make a difference – even if it’s just showing compassion to one person. Who knows what effect one kind word or one kind act might have on that soul that has resolved to act out in violence? Jesus said to love one another – those who are unlovable, the stranger, the forgotten, our neighbors, those in authority, etc. Reach out today in words and acts of compassion. Stay tuned . . . .