Many ask, “Why does God allow…hunger, poverty, sickness, disabilities, etc.?” This quote from Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche Community, awakened a new awareness for me. He wrote, “There are many hungry people in our world. God is not going to send down some bread from trees, because if somebody is hungry, it’s our problem. If somebody is sick it’s my problem; it’s your problem. If somebody is closed up in an institution because he has a disability, it’s my problem. We have to do something about it…It’s up to you and me, but God will give us strength if we open our hearts to God and ask for that strength.”
What came to my attention was the gift of compassion we have been given. You may have heard it said that we are God’s hands in the world. Usually when I hear this I feel guilty because I am not doing enough to help others. What I saw in this Vanier quote is the gift of compassion. If all is not provided as bread falling from heaven then we have the opportunity to learn compassion by giving compassion.
Haven’t we been awakened to compassion because at least one person was compassionate to us? And because of that experience we desired to increase compassion in our lives? This compassionate person delighted in us and gave us the ability to seek and share compassion. Then when we share compassion with another we experience greater compassion. Usually I experience more compassion when it is flowing through me to another. It is this oneness with the flow of infinite love and compassion as we extend compassion to another that we truly know and experience compassion.
I invite you to breathe in compassion and while breathing out extend it to one other sentient being, a loved one, a difficult person, a cat, dog, or tiger.
 Vanier, J. (2006). Encountering the Other. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, p. 60-61.
Compassion has become more important to me over the years because I see so much fear in our culture. I see compassion as the opposite of fear. “Unfortunately, dualistic and oppositional energies cannot bring the change we so desperately need; we cannot fight angry power with more angry power. Only the contemplative mind has the ability to hold the reality of what is and the possibility of what could be.” (R. Rohr from a 2016 unpublished letter posted in Daily Meditations on July 10, 2018.)
Fear is suffering. Fear as an underlying motive for action and decisions creates more suffering. Fear-based beliefs inhibit our vision of a world of dignity and respect where the Core Self, one with the God of Infinite Love and Compassion, sees and identifies with the Core Self in you. This is my “I have a Dream” speech where hearts and minds are creatively “for” a life-giving vision rather than a life of fear and opposition. Are we calling forth life and what is life-giving or are we reacting to a life we are afraid to live?
Each of us has a call, a vocation, to live from our Core Self created in the image of God. We all have well-developed Constructed Selves, the ego that interfaces with the world around us, and this may be healthy or wounded, but we are called to live from our Core Self as well. We can get so caught up in the Constructed or False Self that we think that is all there is. As I’ve said in earlier blogs I use Constructed Self to get away from the idea of a false or bad, egoic self. This Constructed Self does not have the power to separate us from the Core Self one with God but our Constructed Self can seem so real at times that we forget that Divine Love lives inside us.
Can we live out of our Core Self today and call that forth from one another? Rather than spend our time and energy focused on what is bad and what we are opposed to or afraid of, can we work to create environments that call forth the compassionate self? We can identify with our Core Self, see with Christ consciousness, and live a life of compassion. This is how compassion is an agent of transformation—the transformation of our heart, mind and life.
Blog 6: Compassion is not a feeling
Compassion is not a feeling, yet we may have feelings and emotions while in the midst of its awareness. I find that the tender/kind aspect of compassion does create warm feelings inside me but that is not its motivation. Yes, compassion is a motivation not a feeling. It is a manifestation of the divine spark within us. Feelings too often are egocentric rather than a joining with and manifesting the divine spark in our daily lives. This is why compassion can be a way of life, a way of being in our daily lives. It becomes the manifestation of all we do.
Even saying that, I know that we get distracted from this motivation. In western culture we are very focused on the individual. Our first response to everything tends to be, “what impact will this have on me and mine?” We are conditioned into this from a very early age. When compassion is our motivation it asks more of us. It asks us to be aware of our competing motivations and to have the courage to choose compassion even in difficult circumstances. Jesus tells us to “Love our enemies,” and to “Love our neighbor as ourselves,” yet this is very different from the dominant values and motivations in our culture and as humans it seems to be weaned out of us.
Yet, every religion has some language that encourages the follower to love their neighbor. Since it is such a dominant theme it must be possible for us to live compassionately. In order to set out on the Path of Compassion, one must first be aware and conscious of how often we are not compassionate; not as a way to judge ourselves or create shame, but to see the opportunities when we can choose a compassionate response. If you’ve ever wanted, like me, to be “non-judgmental” isn’t it amazing how it seems like all we do is judge! Yet, this is the silver lining of the cloud, to have the gift of sight so that one can see a way forward. Even to consider that there is a different response, a response of compassion, in any situation is a step on the path.
This week let us pause and consider our motivations. Is it an egocentric motivation or is another option available to us? And in this step, practice compassion for all our wayward ways knowing that God writes straight with crooked lines.
 Gilbert, P. and Choden (2014) Mindful Compassion. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, p. 59.
 Luke 6:27
 Mark 12:31
 Attributed as an old Portuguese saying; I first became aware of this through a talk given by James Finley, Ph.D.