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When you Google the word compassion, you might find the following definition: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Most of us can agree with this definition. We differ, however, on when to take action.
A Real Life Example
Police brutality is a trending topic in the United States. For some, there is a struggle to find compassion for those impacted by police brutality. Whether it is our own personal bias that blinds us, the difficulty in comprehending the trauma, or the need to think society cannot be that bad, it can be a challenge to accept this level of violence, even when we see it with our own eyes.
When we aren’t as compassionate as we need to be, we run the risk of downplaying the sufferings and misfortunes of others. As a result, we start looking the other way instead of using our voices to stand up.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”Martin Luther King, Jr.
If trauma is not happening to you, it becomes easier to categorize an issue as “their problem”, not realizing that it is our problem. We all live in this ecosystem. What is happening in our communities, at our jobs, in our government…is all a reflection of us. And if we don’t like what we see, then it’s up to us to try to change it – hopefully for the better.
How to Move Towards Change
When assessing how to make a difference, the phrase is often used – we’re either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. This statement assumes we’re all aligned on the problem. Many times, we are not. And even if we are aligned on the problem, we’re probably not aligned on the solution. We can see this play out in political parties. Even if the government parties agree that we need a stimulus package, the debate on how we get there is what holds up the execution.
Let me say, however, that we need to debate. We need to question, and we need to challenge, but we also need to act. A lack of compassion shouldn’t be a reason that we don’t align on a problem or work towards solutions. Instead, compassion helps us to see life from other people’s perspectives. We can begin to understand varying points of view to better build solutions that improve our ecosystems.
Addressing the Roadblocks
One of the greatest challenges in finding value in compassion, is that we may not like the people to whom we need to show compassion. It can be easier to tear someone down, than to challenge our own way of thinking. We see this play out in the media when a victim’s past is used to attempt to justify bad treatment towards individual. If we find something about this person that we don’t like, then maybe we’re okay with what happened to them. This thinking only masks our biases. There is never a good reason to treat anyone inhumanely. And if we are silent on these types of matters, we are no better than the perpetrators themselves.
This world right now can feel incredibly uneasy. We cannot seem to escape the chaos, but we can change how we approach it. Everyone matters, but some groups of people are in valleys of suffering and misfortune due to the societal chains that have bound us to destructive outcomes. In the United States, the value of life for black men and women is a constant subject of conversation and protest, with a demand for systems to change. Just because this message is at the forefront, doesn’t mean it’s the only message that should be addressed. Today and tomorrow, in countries around the world, compassion will be needed to help pave the way for disenfranchised groups to be released from systematic oppression.
Furthermore, as long as sin is a part of this world, there will be friends, family, and strangers that are in need of our compassion. For some of these people, we’ll think they don’t deserve it – but that does not matter. Our compassion is a requirement from God. He expects us to treat others will love and respect. Too often, we believe that we get to determine when we can give out compassion as if we own judgement. We do not. Instead, the compassion we give today will become the compassion we receive tomorrow. And if history has taught us anything, it’s that the tables will turn – they always do.
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