Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Essentials of Faith: Compassion

(Conversations with Bob! A thrill a minute! Bob and I are discussing essentials of faith. My turn.)

Another piece I would add to my quilt of essentials, to use Bob's metaphor, is compassion. Compassion or the capacity to "feel with" is another aspect of the essence of faith. When we can feel with another person, such as in Jesus's parable of the Good Samaritan, regardless of the boundaries we erect, we participate in what it is to be truly human. Compassion can take the form of authentic listening, to quote Douglas Steere, "to listen another's soul into a sense of discovery and disclosure is the greatest gift one human can give to another."

I also think we are in a time in which we are becoming aware of the need to have compassion for all of life, for Earth itself. I have found in my life as a minister the great beauty when people are able to understand and to feel with others beyond their own narrow vision. I think of the prayer attributed to St. Francis:

"Help me to understand rather than to be understood."

I think of that line often as I so often seek to be understood rather than to understand. What is it to be in your shoes, in your place, in your experience? Too many times I want people to understand me and where I am coming from. But faith as compassion is the gift to transcend that and to be with and for one another.


  1. Compassion is indeed essential. It seems one of the great barriers to feeling compassion is a lack of empathy - the ability, basically, to place one's self in another's situation. The ability to empathize with another leads to the removal of unwarranted judgment: "I'm not going to judge this person because of hee shabby clothes because I can see myself in her position".

    Empathy is a powerful tool that leads to compassion, yet it seems the ability or willingness to empathize with others is waning.

  2. Compassion is essential, but like faith, it has little meaning until it's put into action.

  3. Well put, both of you!

    Welcome, DHFabian! Glad you are here!