compassion – (n) [kuhm-pash–uhn] a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering (Dictionary.com).
In last Wednesday’s post, I wrote about the “parasol” God brought to Jonah’s pity party. That parasol was a vine shading Jonah from the heat of the day, and God used it to teach Jonah several lessons. One of those lessons was about the value of compassion, and that’s where I’d like for us to sit together for a while today.
Here again is the compassion part of God’s conversation with Jonah:
Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did
not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight
and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the
great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not
know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many
animals?” – Jonah 4:10-11
God’s main frustration with Jonah during his pity party was the lack of compassion he felt for the people – and animals, too – of Ninevah, the people who had heeded his warnings and put on sackcloth and fasted in hopes of turning away God’s wrath.
I wonder how often God gets frustrated with our own lack of compassion. Those moments when we make snap judgments about those around us or refuse to consider a person’s circumstances before dismissing them as unworthy of our time or patience or help. Those shameful encounters when we tear down even more instead of reaching out a hand to help back up. Those blind eyes we turn to others’ pain.
This struck me hard over the weekend after reading a blog post from a woman who was in that movie theater with her two teenage daughters. Yes, that theater. Though shaken emotionally, she felt compelled to share a message of her unshaken faith (and some amazing faith statements from her daughters) through her blog. The post went viral, and instead of her usual 30 or so readers, more than a million readers from around the world read her testimony to the goodness of God.
Most commented with compassion, but there were some who decided to tear her down instead. To call her selfish. To criticize her actions that night. To correct her grammar. Yes, you read that right. One commenter felt it important to write in to instruct her: It’s “champing at the bit,” not “chomping at the bit.”
Now, I love me some good grammar, but seriously? Time and place. Put yourself in this woman’s shoes, if you dare. Does she need to hear the difference between champing or chomping right at that moment when she hasn’t slept and is reeling from trauma but still wants to share a message of hope with her friends, and – surprise – the world tunes in?
No. she. does. not. What she needs is lifting up, prayers of thanksgiving that she lived to share this message, grace and mercy and compassion for what she has just experienced.
Does anonymity make us less compassionate?
Is it the anonymity of the Internet that makes us so easily lose our compassion? Is it that same anonymity that turns otherwise decent people into aggressive drivers on the road, refusing to consider the actual, real person driving the car in front of them? Is it the same trait that makes some think it’s okay to disrupt a funeral, military or otherwise, with a protest based on hate?
The blogger who shared her message of hope has inspired me and reminded me that we are all little jars of clay that hold a treasure of “the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God” within (2 Corinth. 4:6-7).
Sharing the light
I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir here, but will you join me in a grassroots compassion campaign?
Let’s refuse to take part in the unthinking insults and small furies and quick criticisms in the world. Let’s refuse to ignore those who need the better part of ourselves. If compassion seems too hard a place to start, then begin with small kindnesses and patience (maybe a genuine smile instead of a frown when the older lady in front of you takes a long time to write a check in the grocery store line). Then move up to acts of mercy and compassion.
Let’s show the world we know of a Light that the darkness cannot overcome. Let’s share that Light by letting it shine out from the cracks in our little jars of clay.
Will you join me? Where will you begin?