On Compassion

This post is inspired by something God has been teaching me recently. Whether or not it will be helpful to readers, I do not know – but it is honest, and I felt like I needed to write it out – and so here it is.

First, I will start by saying that I love people. I really do. Not only do I care about my friends, family, classmates, and coworkers, I also am just sincerely interested in and fascinated by people in general. Everyone is different, and everyone has their own hopes, and dreams, and lives, and things that excite them… and I love meeting new people and getting to know what makes them who they are.

However, there is also another part of myself, a part I do not like much, which tends to get frustrated and annoyed by other people’s differences. I try to keep this part of myself hidden, but nevertheless it comes out sometimes – like when I’m talking about something I care about, and someone disregards it. Or when I realize that someone knows nothing about something that I consider to be incredibly important or basic knowledge. I have a terrifying tendency to dismiss people – not just their opinions, but people themselves – because I consider them uneducated, or wrong, or to make too many mistakes.

I hate this part of myself. I don’t want to look down on people, especially since I have no right to. I make so many mistakes myself, every day, and yet God gives me grace. What would it be like if God looked at us, saw all of our failures and mistakes, and just dismissed us? Fortunately, He doesn’t do that. He forgives us, He loves us, and He gave up His own Son to save us.

I’ve had people tell me multiple times that they are inspired by my compassion – but I don’t feel compassionate. I feel the opposite. I feel selfish. I spend so much time thinking about myself – things that are important to me, things that I am doing, ways I can improve – that I often forget to think about others. I forget that everyone else around me has their own challenges, their own fears, their own dreams… and that instead of being so focused on myself, I could be helping them.

Oddly, it seems that every time I am at my worst is when someone tells me how thankful they are for my compassion, or how they are inspired by my kindness, etc. And then this causes me to look at my life… and realize how utterly short I am in both of those things. I desperately want to be compassionate, and kind, and selfless. I believe God has called me to be so. People tell me that those are my strengths – and yet, I find that those areas are where I have the tendency to struggle most.

I really like this quote by C.S. Lewis (okay, I like basically every quote by C.S. Lewis, but this one is relevant to this post):

“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” you neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.” ~ C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Maybe if I start trying harder to love everyone – even if it is difficult, even if I don’t feel like it, even if they are frustrating to me – maybe if I keep making the choice to love them anyway, I will find that their differences don’t really matter anymore. Maybe if I realize that I make just as many mistakes, have just as many failings, and am just as much in need of constant grace myself – maybe then with God’s help, I will learn to be truly compassionate. I desperately want to be.

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