What Is Compassion?

What is compassion 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.

Read the latest issue of Compassion Today at www.compassion.ca.

20 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Aaron May 12, 2009

    Caitlin, I’m glad you brought this up. Your reaction is actually a big reason for why we added the counter. Thanks for sharing this today.

  2. Caitlin May 10, 2009

    So, I really liked the article, but then I kept wandering on the Canada site, I noticed that the kids waiting for sponsors also have listed how long they have been waiting for sponsors. I really liked that. When you first start sponsoring a kid, it’s kind of nice to know how long he’s been waiting. The time difference may not seem much to us, but I’ll bet it meant a lot to him. You have to wonder, after 6 months if they begin to wonder, “Is it just me? Why doesn’t anyone want me? Is it because I’m stupid/ugly/worthless? Why are other children getting chosen that haven’t been waiting so long?” Tangent, not related to this post but since I wandered through Canada’s site because of this post, I thought I’d put it here.

  3. Juli Jarvis May 7, 2009

    Yeah! Excellent post — this is truly what Compassion is! Love it!

  4. Aaron May 7, 2009

    Hi all,

    Glad you enjoyed Tim’s work – we were very blessed to be able to share it with all of you.

    Hope you enjoy the rest of the magazine!

  5. Caitlin May 7, 2009

    Life is truly unfair. It is hard when it is unfair in our own lives, but I think for most of us, it’s worse when it is unfair to people we should protect. The necessary, but not necessarily fun side of compassion. Thank you for tracking the rest of that article down, Chris! I’m glad I got to read it, and I’m looking forward to reading any sort of follow up on it…if it’s out there.

  6. Lindy May 7, 2009

    Wow!!! That is so powerful! It breaks my heart while giving me great insight into Jesus’ kind of love!

  7. Vicki Small May 6, 2009

    Thanks for playing “Paul Harvey,” for us, Chris. The rest of the story didn’t go where I’d hoped it would, but it has its own value.

    Not every story has a happy ending, does it.

  8. Amy Wallace May 6, 2009

    I know that I sometimes get so mad at the injustice in this world that I would like to administer my own “justice”, but that won’t solve anything. If we devote our energy to ending this injustice, instead of being mad at the people who cause it, we will accomplish a whole lot more.

  9. Chris Giovagnoni May 6, 2009

    I have updated the post. The full story is there now.

    Again, I apologize for the confusion and inconvenience.

  10. Chris Giovagnoni May 6, 2009

    Aaah! Now I understand. I apologize for the misdirection and confusion.

    I will “Paul Harvey” the post and get you the rest of the story shortly.

  11. Tania @ Larger Family Life May 5, 2009

    Yes Chris, clicking there but though I’ve read the magazine from page to page I can’t find the article being referred to. Perhaps I just can’t see it for looking!

  12. Michael May 5, 2009

    Like the others, I can’t find this article either. The link seems to work fine, taking me to May 2009 issue, but I can’t find the article about Haiti. I am particularly interested, as we are adopting an orphan from Haiti.

  13. Mike Stephens May 5, 2009

    I did not find the story on the Compassion today either but I read a story by Tim Bailey who visited the Dominican Republic that I liked. I also saw a picture with Wes and a child from somewhere in Africa it looked like. I guess it could have been Haiti. It encouraged sponsors to visit their kids!!! So eventhough I didn’t read the article I found a bunch of others that were great!!!

    I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for YOU!!!”

  14. Danielle May 5, 2009

    Im having the same trouble. The link does go to the magazine, but I don’t see the rest of the article there.

  15. Cheryl J May 5, 2009

    I believe I got the latest issue of Compassion Today when I clicked on the link above. But in the article about what compassion is, this article is missing. I have read through the entire magazine and nothing like this is anywhere in it. If you have found it, can you please give me the page number?

  16. Vicki Small May 5, 2009

    @Chris Giovagnoni – Yep, that’s what I clicked on, Chris.

  17. Caitlin May 5, 2009

    I’m having the same problem. I went to the magazine, but the only thing I can see that mentions Tim Bailey references back to this blog. There’s no hint of the rest of this story.

  18. Chris Giovagnoni May 5, 2009

    Are you clicking on the “latest issue of Compassion Today”? That is the link that takes you to magazine. It’s working for me.

  19. Cheryl J May 5, 2009

    I cannot seem to find the rest of this article. It isn’t in the Compassion Today magazine. There is says to go to blog.compassion.com nor can I find it at compassion.ca. I would really like to read the rest of the article. Can you finish it here?

  20. Vicki Small May 5, 2009

    I looked at every page there and never could see that story. Granted, I had a choice of teensy-tiny text or great big text that gave me only a few lines at a time. I wanted to read the rest of the story, anticipating that it ends happily, as this girl was surely registered in a Compassion-assisted student center and sponsored!

Add a Comment

Read the ground rules for comments.