Monday, August 03, 2015

HEART OF COMPASSION

This summer I've been in a book club going through the book of Colossians.  It has been excellent.  We show up and read through the chapter that we are looking at, take some time for personal reflection and then discuss it.  For summer, it's been the best thing, because there is no extra homework, but I really do feel like we are diving in when we are together.  Win, win.

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One phrase in particular has stuck in my heart and mind.  In Colossians 3, Paul tells the church to

"put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity."
(verses 12b-14, NASB, emphasis added by me)

This struck me as such a simple command, and yet it encompasses so much about the way that we interact with those around us.  I have never thought of myself as especially compassionate, but thinking through situations with empathy really is a game changer.  It is transforming, and for me, it is only possible through God's grace.

When I approach my children with a heart of compassion, I am more likely to listen to what they are really saying and try to understand where they are at.  That doesn't mean that I will always agree with their point of view, but the better I understand it as well as the feelings that accompany it, the better equipped I am to deal with them in a loving way.

When I approach loaded personal situations with a heart of compassion, I spend less time focusing on why I am right and more time considering the hows and whys that make up someone else's point of view.  And though that may ultimately not change the way I proceed, it will certainly impact and direct my feelings about the people involved.  It is so easy to focus on how I think and feel without stopping to consider where someone else is coming from.  When I put on a heart of compassion, I am compelled to make that consideration.  For me, this can diffuse a situation and lead towards more cooperation and understanding.

I recently listened to a podcast make a case for the statistics that indicate how rare it is for people to actually change their mind on something important, and based on my observations and experiences, I believe that is mostly true.  People think what they are going to think.  However, just think how different the world would be if we were all putting on a heart of compassion?  Everyone comes at life with baggage and hurts and experiences that color their worldview.  Imagine if we really made room for people stories to color our perspective?  Again, I don't think it would fundamentally change most opinions, but it does dramatically shape the way we deal with one another.

So - I've been asking God to give me eyes to see and ears to hear and to be clothed with compassion and to ultimately put on more love.  It's an uphill battle that fights my inward skeptic who wants to stayed entrenched in my own opinions and wants to do things her own way.  Old habits die hard - especially the ones inside my mind, but by God's grace, I'm gaining empathy one tiny day at a time.

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