What Kind of Compassion?

IF you were asked in a public-opinion poll to describe yourself, would you select the word compassionate? Most of us might hesitate for a moment and then concur. After all, how many people want to think of themselves as uncompassionate! Compassion, or our lack of it, continually influences us for better or worse. With compassion we gain perspective. We can see, even in the midst of sad, tangled human stories, the outlines of God's man and gleams of spiritual individuality. Compassion dissolves hate before this plague can develop, and it stops us from fixedly seeing nothing but the dark side of human beings. It is a fundamental step toward more conviction about the reality and the actual presence of the man whom God has created in His image.

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, mentions that compassion is a necessity on the route to spiritual understanding. Science and Health points out the need for us to learn to help the grief-stricken and brokenhearted even before we can learn how to help the sick through spiritual healing. And Mrs. Eddy writes that she named her spiritual discovery Christian Science because it is compassionate, helpful, and spiritual.

Christ Jesus' example would indicate that the truest source for compassion is closeness to God. Jesus' love for God gave him unparalleled love. But there was a marked difference between his love and human pity. Pity can often be so awash in feelings of despair that the pitier is immobilized and overwhelmed. Deeply moved as Jesus was, we wouldn't think of him as ``overwhelmed.'' When Jesus' heart went out, for example, to the mass of people who had had little to eat or drink because they had been so intent on following him, he was then able to feed this multitude. His compassion didn't -- according to the New Testament accounts -- separate him from the oneness with God that brought healing.

Too much pity can so involve us in the human scene that it clouds the capacity to help those we most want to assist. Christlike compassion doesn't grow from our becoming more and more acquainted with human anguish. We have to grow into compassion through steps of spiritual regeneration. This progress brings sharper awareness of the needs and the mental state of others, but it doesn't draw one into such sympathy with the need that it results in belittling God's nature as present divine Love.

There is a statement in Science and Health that makes us stop and think about both humanity and divinity. Mrs. Eddy comments: ``The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus.''

When we've felt the touch of real compassion from someone, we've also felt that we weren't being written off as hopelessly sick, impossibly inept, or unspiritually-minded. Instead we were lifted up from our unhappy state to see something more of goodness -- and therefore of God and man as His child.

As our own recognition of this Christ, or Truth, increases, we naturally express much more compassion. But in the process of caring, we don't lose touch with the divine, the Science that tells of God's love here at hand. We find the help and the healing that only divine Love could make possible.

This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the August 13 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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