Compassion: You Gotta Feel It

5 06 2012

com·pas·sion (k m-p sh n). n. Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

The Gospels tell us more than once that Jesus was moved with compassion.  This sense of feeling the pain, the emptiness, the disillusionment of those around Him motivated His action.

The heart of compassion seeks to relieve suffering.  It is innate in us as creatures made in the image of God.  It can be silenced through self-absorption, cruelty and indifference.

I recently read a story from the life of James Martin.  In his book, In Good Company: The Fast Track from the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, he tells about his experience in the corporate world and how his disillusionment with the aggressive, cut-throat, survival-of-the-fittest culture of his Fortune 500 company led him to become a Jesuit.

He recalls one instance where he was instructed to help get rid of a recently lauded employee.  This man had just been given an incentive award, had no documented poor performance and was a fifteen year veteran–an asset to the company.  One of James’ bosses, a mid-level manager I recall, instructed him to get rid of the guy.

“But he’s been with the company for fifteen years and it’s going to be practically impossible for him to get a job.  I mean, have some compassion.” James protested.

His boss’s reply: “F*** compassion.”

It would be patently unfair to cast all of corporate America by this level of callousness.  There is compassion in high places, both commercial and governmental.  But the response of the manager is the antithesis of empathy.  It’s completely without feeling for another human being.

Leprosy is a condition where the one thus afflicted cannot feel pain.  Nerves are deadened and one becomes free of pain, more of a curse than a blessing.  Leprosy by itself does not cause limbs to fall off.  Rather, the person with leprosy cannot feel pain and injures himself and does not treat the injury properly.  The resulting infection can mean the loss of fingers, toes, even limbs.

It’s interesting that leprosy, in Scripture, typifies sin.  When we do wrong, it hardens our ability to feel pain, shame and remorse.

Compassion is something we must recover.

Do you hurt with the suffering you see around you?  Or are you comfortably numb?

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3 responses

6 06 2012
Johnson

Sadly it is easier to anaesthetise our feelings rather than feel it and do something about the pain around us. Easy to be so overwhelmed and then do nothing. I believe one little step forward is miles better than no step at all

6 06 2012
Christian Fahey

It is easier to be numb but there’s pain in the end. Better to feel now and act. Thanks for reading!

9 03 2013

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