According to the Oxford American Dictionary that is installed on my Mac, the word compassion means:
compassion |kəmˈpa sh ən| noun
sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others : the victims should be treated with compassion.
ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French from ecclesiastical Latin compassio(n-), from compati ‘suffer with.’
Take note of the origin of the word: “to suffer with”.
We suffer. We are all wounded and broken in some way. For you reading this blog and the others on the recovery and conversion blogrolls, you understand this. You wouldn’t be here unless you’ve been wounded and hurt in your past. Whether it is by others or most likely yourself (because of your addictions), you know suffering.
To me, it doesn’t matter whether the suffering is self-inflicted or bestowed upon you by others, suffering is suffering.
Suffering tends to isolate us. We think we are alone and this is reinforced by the resistance of others to be near us when we hurt. It sometimes feels as if we are like the lepers of old who had to wear signs identifying them as “unclean”, and thus to be avoided. Sometimes we push people away when we hurt as if contact with others will increase our pain. “Leave me alone” we shout, either with words or a “keep away, keep far away” attitude and demeanor.
We are Christians and as such we are taught by Jesus that we must accept suffering.
Matthew 16:24-25: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
This does not necessarily mean that we are just to deal with our own suffering. We must also bear one another’s burdens.
Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Just as others are resistant to bear our burdens when we hurt, we are sometimes just as guilty when we see others hurting. We do not wish to be burned by whatever is afflicting them, or we are too distracted by our own concerns, or we selfishly prefer our own distractions and do not see and reach out when we can.
This takes us away from others and we become self-absorbed. We get carried away in our own interests and situations. We leave other people to their own suffering and we do not suffer with them. We lack compassion. We temporarily lack the ability to suffer with others. I say “temporarily” because if you possess a well-formed conscience you eventually notice this and wonder what is disturbing you. You discover that you have become too caught up in yourself and there is a world out there, or maybe just a small group of people that you work with or are related to who have been caught up in troubles of their own and have needed you. At least some small attention by you.
So you pick yourself up and resolve to do better. You try to sense what is going on in the lives of others and to tend to them. You hopefully consign your bout of self-absorption to the past (knowing it’ll return from time to time as we are sinners) and allow the experience to sensitize you to other people’s pain.
I chose that word carefully, sensitize. For in the cacophony of the World, we are oftentimes desensitized to other people’s sufferings. There’s just so much and we become numb to it all. And as we are addicts and alcoholics, we indulge ourselves in some distraction that fills us up. We may even rationalize the distraction as being something beneficial to us in the long run, calling it an “experience” or a mental health escape. This is all good, if it can be useful to others down the road.
As long as we remain focused on what is essential, that being:
Matthew 6:33: “…seek first the kingdom (of God)…“
This is New Year’s Day, 2009. We are all “supposed” to make resolutions for the year. In one of my other blogs I write about that: Resolution: One Day at a Time
(Via Trudging Paulcoholic’s Road.)
This may be one resolution that we might be capable of keeping the entire year, if we renew ourselves through prayer and meditation. That is: to try to stay attuned to the suffering that is about us, and to reach out and help in whatever manner we are able.
See you often throughout the year, both here and over at Catholics in Recovery .Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)"The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"