Compassion. What is it? What does it look like? Webster defines it as sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others. I don’t know that I really like that definition to be honest.
Is compassion letting those little hands braid your hair even though your eyes water from the pain of it?
photo by monique
Is it speaking your limited Siswati and just smiling when you don’t understand a lick of what they’re saying in return?
Is it tickling, smiling, and laughing with them and letting them just be a kid?
photo by monique
Is it handing them a plate of pap and beans with a smile on your face?
Is it learning the games they enjoy and trying your best to play even though they beat the socks off you?
Is it telling them that there’s a Father in Heaven who loves them dearly and hurts with them?
Is it letting that precious one gently lay his head on your chest, even if only for a 5 minute snooze just so he can feel the warmth and compassion as that from a parent?
The Bible tells us to have compassion on others. But I found many different definitions. The Old Testament meanings include:
- to feel passion with someone, to enter sympathetically into their sorrow and pain.
- to possess grace and charm and to be gracious.
- an emotional expression of crying and feeling with someone who is hurting.
- to be sorry for, regret, comfort, console.
- a feeling of pity and devotion to a helpless child.
The New Testament builds on the OT meanings with the following:
- the emotion aroused by another person’s undeserved suffering or pain.
- the inward parts; the center of personal feelings and emotions for another.
- lamentation and grief for the dead and came to mean sympathetic participation in grief.
- to suffer what someone else suffers. It came to mean to suffer with, alongside, to sympathize.
- the ability to be moderate in emotions or passions.
So yes, I believe compassion is all those things I listed above. It encompasses so much and goes way beyond just feeling sorry for another. The orphan and AIDS statistics here in southern Africa are staggering. It is so easy to get lost in the numbers and wonder how you can really make a difference. The answer is one child at a time. I am starting a new series called Tender Treasures. Every Wednesday I will be posting a story of a child here. A name with a face. People’s hearts can be moved to compassion through the numbers, but how much more when they hear their stories! I encourage you to pray for each child as you read their story and ask God how He might move you to compassion for the orphan.