Lessons in true compassion

If we’re feeling wearied by the push and pull of current events, political or otherwise, a spiritual perspective on what it means to be compassionate can uplift the way we react to news and to others who think differently than we do.

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A couple of years ago, I felt the need to explore the meaning of compassion more deeply. I’d been feeling exhausted by the constant push and pull of the political situation in the world. I noticed how easily I felt overcome by deep emotions when reading the news – a great sense of sadness and heaviness regarding those suffering from injustices and other heart-wrenching issues.

I thought I was being compassionate by feeling this way, but it didn’t seem to be yielding much comfort and didn’t feel like a contribution to healing, so I decided to look to the Bible and “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy for fresh inspiration.

While reading about the children of Israel in the book of Exodus and their long journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, I found it surprising how often the Israelites would doubt God’s power and care for them. What was even more surprising, albeit comforting, was how God never left their side. Time after time, despite all the doubt and complaints from the Israelites, God demonstrated His great patience and love by providing for them and protecting them from harm. My heart warmed even more when I found this passage in Psalms: “But he [God], being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity” (78:38).

I wanted to understand more of that compassion that loves and forgives. Through my study of Christian Science I’d had the opportunity to feel God’s all-embracing and constant love for me, so it made sense that God, who is Love itself, would be full of tender, pure love for all His children. Love had guided the Israelites, provided them food in the desert, and forgiven their trespasses as they turned more Godward. It was because of God’s unwavering, patient love that the children of Israel did eventually come to obey, trust, and love God’s guidance.

I concluded that I, too, in my true identity as a complete and perfect idea of God, could express this pure and forgiving love toward everyone around me. I could have no traits of unloving judgment, self-righteousness, or ill will, because they are not qualities of God. Of course, if this was true about me, in reality it had to be true about everyone else.

Another point I wanted to clarify in my thought was whether it was really true that in order to be compassionate one has to feel sorrow for others’ troubles. This was essentially what I had often found myself doing when reading the news. But in Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy, quoting from the Bible, makes it clear that “God is ‘of purer eyes than to behold evil’” (p. 357). This means that God could not see His children as lacking, suffering mortals and then feel sorrow for them. On the contrary, God sees and has always seen everyone as perfect, complete, and satisfied. In other words, He sees each of us as He created us, in His image and likeness.

I realized that being truly compassionate entails embracing everyone in thought as God’s perfect and loved child and recognizing, without hesitation, that no one could actually ever be outside of His all-encompassing love. And because God is Love and man reflects God, we really can’t help expressing compassionate, healing love.

Another thought that came to me was that true compassion is not a passive quality. It is not just a superficial thing to feel compassion toward another, but it is powerful and can contribute to healing. Christ Jesus was often described as being “moved with compassion” when the multitudes approached him seeking healing (for example, in Matthew 14:14). His healing ability never failed because he knew it came from God. And we can all naturally follow his example by opening up to God’s grace and love and witnessing healing.

I also realized that expressing compassion is one of the most selfless gifts one can give another, because it requires letting go of a personal sense of ego or self. It helps one turn from a me-focused mentality to the selfless desire to genuinely care about the welfare of another.

These insights have been very important in helping me improve the way I react to the news and to others who think differently than I do. I am constantly comforted to know that God is our source of compassion and that each of us can not only feel compassion toward others but see it lead to healing as well.

Adapted from an article published in the Oct. 2019 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

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