I’ve been thinking today a lot about the differences between sympathy and compassion. I’m not sure what started me on this, probably something I read in Job today, but I’ve been wrapping my brain around it for the last several hours and have come to some interesting ideas.
1) The short and simple definition of these two are as follows: sympathy is being affected by the suffering of others, while compassion is willingly partaking in the suffering of others.
2) Sympathy comes very easy. Compassion does not.
3) There are very few movies that illustrate true compassion.
The Four Feathers is one of the few examples, but it gets lost in-between the machismo of war and the reverence of romance. But the plight of Harry is a good picture of compassion: moved by the ill news he receives of his friends, he changes his entire life in order to be there to protect and help them. And in this process, he truly suffers with them in battles that are not his to fight.
The thing is, I do not have compassion. Sometimes, I can muster up enough of it to be of some use, but not very often. Its so much easier to sit back and say, “That is just such a shame. You know what? I’ll do [insert meaningful yet ultimately low key action] so that that’ll help them out. I wouldn’t want them to think no one cares.” This is what I do. All the time. Of course, what should say is this, “That’s awful. Is there anything I can do to help you bear this burden?” I should be willing to sacrifice so much more from my own life in order to help those who are without or who are in need.
This isn’t so much about being a good steward with what God has given me. Its about being an instrument of God’s blessing to everyone else. Its not about some arrogant idea of social justice. Its about genuinely feeling something for the person next door because they need someone to care. Ultimately, its about true and sincere and honest religion. The way it was always meant to be.
Do I have this? If not, am I willing to seek it?