On compassion

My eldest has started a new school this year, and each year they have theme that they focus on for the whole year. This year the theme is compassion.

The dictionary defintion of compassion is “to suffer with” and it contains the same latin root, pati as one of my words for the year passion.

It has me thinking, what if this year is not just about being passionate about things I love like creativity and good food, or being in beautiful natural spaces with friends and family? What if this year is also about being a woman of compassion, willingly entering into another’s suffering, joining in it with them, and in so doing easing their pain?

We don’t like the word suffering. It’s not something we would generally put our hand up for. For that involves discomfort and possibly even pain!

And yet we have been created with hearts that break when we see others suffer. I think the beautiful outpouring of support for our bushfire crisis is a clear example of that. When we see pain and heartbreak, our hearts crack in response, and it is in that moment, that entering into, that joining with someone else in their suffering that we find compassion.

We can not help but be moved, and that inner suffering prompts an action. We donate, we pray, we bake, we call, we send flowers, we do something to let others know that we are with them.

In Colossians* we are called to ‘clothe ourselves in compassion.’ I love this image of putting it on like we would shirt, maybe carefully doing up the buttons with intention. What would life be like if I clothed myself with compassion, what would my reaction to others be?

Then this weekend I attended my friend Amanda’s book launch. And the fabulous singer-songwriter Rose Parker shared with us a song written for the launch. As she sang the first line she skewered me with these words.

There’s a voice of compassion that I use for everybody else, but the voice of derision I save just for myself.

Rose Parker

And it made me wonder, if I cam clothed in compassion then it is not just about entering into others hurt and suffering, but also allowing us to feel our own? And like it motivates us towards movement when others are suffering, this compassion needs to motivate us towards movement when we are.

What if in clothing myself with compassion makes me more forgiving when others stuff up, and also when I do? What if clothing myself in compassion makes me more accepting of others’ faults, and of my own? What if clothing myself in compassion means I give grace when things go wrong, and space for valid emotions, both for myself and in others?

What would this year look like if it not just one of passion but also compassion? I think it’s worth finding out. Don’t you?


* Colossians 3:12