Compassion is defined like this: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Why is it when there is an uncomfortable situation or a problem, we feel the need to fix it as quickly as possible? Is it compassion that drives us, or is it that suffering makes us feel ill at ease? Does other's misfortune make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix the problem and get back to our comfort zones? It may be all of the above, all at once, but most of all, I believe compassion drives us to alleviate the suffering of others. However, some pain can't be fixed by action alone. Some pain just needs to be expressed and heard.
The recent events in our country has made me reflect on this. How often have I jumped in when someone was expressing themselves with an immediate solution or opinion? Sometimes, even before they've finished their sentence. When most of the time, a wounded person just needs someone to listen and love them.
After we lost our daughter Nicole in an accident, there were those who out of their desire to make me feel better, layered words on my broken heart. They tried to fix my pain. The problem with that was I was crushed with grief, and there were no words or actions that could fix me right then. Others just showed up and listened. The few words they said were those like, "I love you, I'm with you, or just I'm so sorry." Those words made me feel heard and not alone in my suffering.
The Bible says, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19). God knows our propensity to answer to any conflict or uncomfortable feeling quickly. When what is needed is just to listen. Compassionate Listening
It doesn't mean that you will automatically agree with what is being said, but listen.
In a recent message, Greg Cultra of One Church Nashville reminded us that before we take action, we must listen, then love.
The thing is – pain, grief, injustice, and hatred are complex issues. Only God has the power to fix the deep sorrows of the heart. In our own strength, we can sometimes react in anger or strong opinion and make those issues more complicated.
I know sometimes it feels like not reacting is inaction - like we are powerless. However, that is not true. Listening and loving are the most powerful actions we can do when we don't know what to do.
Colossians 3:14 says:
"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
Unity seems so unattainable sometimes. It doesn't mean perfect agreement; we won't agree entirely with most everyone all of the time, even the ones closest to us. But love unites us despite our differences.
There will be times to take action, but it is vital we lay a solid foundation first. Whether we are consoling a grieving friend or addressing the complex issues that are plaguing our country - compassion listening, then loving, despite our differences will help pave the way to healing.