On the second day of looking into compassion, it’s worth a few moments of time to look at some common synonyms for compassion. As I think about compassion, my mind goes to people who have been compassionate with me. I see faces and hands, the touch of friends and family who have seen me sick or hurting and moved to help me. I can even think of some who have seen me at my worst, heard me at my worst, maybe have been hurt by my words and actions, and yet still viewed me with eyes of compassion and responded to me with healing.
Dictonary.com synonyms: “commiseration, mercy, tenderness, heart, clemency”
Dictonary.com word origin: “from Old French, from Late Latin compassiō fellow feeling, from compatī to suffer with“
We’re taking a moment with Dictionary.com again to think about both the synonyms and the root of our word compassion. There is an inescapable mutuality within compassion. Compassion, as an active mercy, a realized tenderness, or a state of the heart, is a connective mercy translated into relationship between us. It’s that fellow feeling or the suffering with of the old French and Latin. Compassion is a connection between us.
Could it be that someone doesn’t have to be terribly suffering or hurting to benefit from our compassion? Or at least not suffering more than is common to daily life? Can’t our tenderness and mercy be a daily gift to those around us regardless of their immediate condition of pain and suffering? How much suffering and hurt would be avoided in the world if we made compassion a preemptive strike against loneliness, ridicule and rejection? If the old axiom true that hurting people hurt people, then we might also accept the idea that healed people heal people. If we live in such daily mutuality, would we not want to add to the positive flow of compassion more than the negative flow of judgment, apathy or disregard?
I can’t resist plugging in what might be my favorite words of St. Paul the Apostle…
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5
I pray that the evidence of our lives, the record of our passing through this world, is a littered trail of healed people, mended hearts and compassionate touches. May our compassion and our commitment to one another be driving forces which guide our words and actions, this day and every day. Amen.