Hey all, Aaron from Compassion Canada here.
We recently asked Pastor Tim Bailey of Hillside Church in London, ON, the question “What is compassion?” We liked his answer so much that we wanted to share it with all of you. Enjoy!
Her bottom lip quivered as her fingers nervously played with her hair band. Her eyes glanced quickly from side to side, as if expecting to run at any moment. Her knee bounced to the beat of her heart as she listened passively to my questions.
She was a Restavek child from the depths of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and without the knowledge of her owners, she was meeting with us to tell her story.
It was the story of a concrete mattress, early morning chores and constant abuse. It was a story of an uncle who was using her as his own personal slave.
Abandoned by her parents and left on the edge of the city in hopes of a better life, she had spent the last four years trying to protect her younger sister from the fate that had destroyed her life.
As I listened to her answer my difficult and somewhat invasive questions, her ability to hold her emotions in was disturbing. It was as if she had perfected a way to avoid the reality of her situation.
She talked as if she were answering for someone else. The only hope I saw was the quiver that never got past her swollen lip.
After 10 minutes of listening to her circumstance, I began to feel physically ill. I felt panic like I had not felt in years. The hatred building in my soul was overtaking all my emotions.
Sweat started dripping off my forehead as I looked at my friend behind the camera. “I’m spent,” I said, quickly standing up and running out the door and down the corridor. I felt as if I couldn’t breath.
At the end of the hallway, I hung over the railing, weeping uncontrollably. I could not remember feeling as angry as I did then. Shaking, I stood there ready to hunt this man down and end his reign of abuse and oppression. The wall beside me felt the brunt of my anger as I punched it in an outburst of rage.
In that moment, I started to identify with the conflict in my spirit. My anger was telling me to fight for justice. My rage wanted to give the oppressor his dues.
On the other hand, sympathy was telling me to heal the injustice. Love was calling me towards freeing the oppressed.
Compassion hijacked my anger that day. My rage turned in on itself, and instead of driving me towards administering my own form of justice, it fueled a determination to feel deep empathy and act on the pain and sorrow I was experiencing.
When faced with the raw injustices in our world, it is our tendency to want to fight for justice. It is our human nature to want to retaliate and oppress the oppressor and fight the fighters.
But love calls us to a higher place. Jesus calls us to love our enemies, and heal injustice. The war we fight within us is between acting on our hate or being driven by love.
Compassion is what we do when love wins.