A good friend called to talk about a difficult uncle. He is distant and prickly. She is tired of trying to be nice to him when he shows only rudeness to her. I suggested that she try to understand his struggles and pains. She commented that he doesn’t deserve her compassion.
Deserve her compassion? It struck me instinctively that the proper question is never one of deservingness. None of us deserves compassion. We are all narrow and selfish. We all deserve condemnation.
Yet “if we demand an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will all soon be blind and toothless” (variously attributed).
We humans expect mercy and compassion for our misdeeds while offering justice and retribution to others for their misdeeds. We cluck at those who text while driving. But, when we text (or check movie schedules, or read emails) while driving, it is only for truly vital matters.
We resent any snubs from the people around us. Yet we ourselves sniff at or ignore unnumbered people every day.
We all know this is wrong but it is so common that our offenses become like Muzak at the mall; we hardly notice. We become Pharisees humming Come, Come Ye Saints.
Occasionally our consciences tweak us. We feel the discomfort of acting at odds with our values. And we make a choice. We set aside conscience or we embrace it.
Let’s imagine we embrace conscience. For the woman dealing with a difficult uncle, it may be impossible to go directly from pain to compassion. She may need first to feel God’s compassion for her. He grieves at her suffering. He feels her pain personally and profoundly. When we allow ourselves to be filled with His compassion, it becomes possible for us to show compassion. When we have a vibrant, loving relationship with Him, it becomes possible to be His messengers.
How do we get there? What if we feel like spiritual failures? What if we can’t seem to find His love despite a lifetime of trying?
I don’t have any easy answers to those questions. In my case, Heavenly Father tricked me. He showed me how much He loved His most broken and desperate children. As I witnessed His love for them, I finally stopped resisting His love for me. I finally sang the song of redeeming love in a personal way.
I don’t know how He will reach you. But I am sure it is always good for us to drop our defenses against Him. It is good to beg for an outpouring of His love. I cannot say what your path will be but I know that He is anxious to fill you, to bless you, to love you, to heal you, and to partner with you.
If God weeps with the suffering of His wicked children (Moses 7), He certainly grieves over our struggles. Feeling His compassion and devotion prepares us to act like Him—offering compassion to our fellow travelers.
Because we are in a fallen world, we are all injured, broken, damaged, and fragmented. Rather than scoff at each other’s injuries, we can be kind; After all, “everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We can offer a crust of bread and a kind word to every person we meet. We can work to notice each person God places in our paths.
When we are filled with the love of God, we can turn toward people with warm and loving curiosity: What unique gift has God given this person? What can I learn from this child of God? What might God call me to do for this person?
The surest way to draw heaven into our lives is to show compassion—undeserved compassion. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).
I love Joni Hilton’s invitation: “Next time you’re in line at the market, or pumping gas, or in the workplace, notice the people around you and the quick conclusions you’re tempted to draw. Catch yourself judging unfairly and rewind the tape. Instead, see this person as a child of God who is loved and hoped for. Know that a Patriarchal Blessing awaits this person. Realize they cheered in the Pre-mortal World when they heard the Plan of Happiness. Ask a silent prayer to see if your path was meant to cross theirs today, to help them and bring them the truth” (Joni Hilton, Meridian Magazine, Are You More Judgmental than You Think?)
It feels good to show love.
Ask Heavenly Father for the gift to really see people—especially to see them as He sees them. Pause to offer compassion, to pray for them, to appreciate them. If appropriate, ask them about themselves. Enter their worlds with interest and compassion. Express appreciation. Pray for them.
I recommend that everyone read Stephen Robinson’s Believing Christ.
Ronnie BrayDecember 13, 2017
Who "deserves" our com passion is an interesting way of framing a question whose answer lies in the eternal truth, justice, and love of Almighty God. It is possible that God has a mathematical system of weighing human souls to see who is deserving of his compassion and the blessings to which those of us adjudged by his cryptic system of qualifying some and disqualifying others of the fruits of his compassion. Yet even considering this disturbs my heart because I recognise that according to the scriptures no one is considered undeserving of his compassion, "because God so loves the world that he sent his only begotten Son that whosoever [inclusive] believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." From this statement of truth it is evident that God extends his compassion to everyone, whosoever, and that being do, we also must extend our compassion to all, however undeserving we judge them to be. The major operand is forgiveness, for if we do not forgive those that offend us then neither will God forgive us. Therefore, the answer to "Who deserves our compassion? can only be, "Every one of our brothers and sister deserves our compassion!" There is no other way.
Sally SmithDecember 12, 2017
I ask Heavenly Father daily to show me what I can do for one of his children and when I do it is usually through a smile, a kind word or an act of service. When I do this the blessings of the Lord are poured out upon me and those I come in contact with.