A Simple Way to Become a More Compassionate Person
Haiti's natural disasters and the fall of Afghanistan: How do Christians need to respond?
Global headlines from the past week have stirred grief, despair and anger. In the wake of the Haitian president’s assassination last month, the country now attempts to recover from a 7.2 earthquake as well as Tropical Storm Grace.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters have taken provinces across the country, including the capital of Kabul. The new leaders describe their plan of Shariah law for the country.
As both Haitians and Afghans live in uncertainty and instability, how can Christians tap into compassion to support their brothers and sisters across the globe?
Compassion is connected to what we do. To love people, we need to care about them. That’s what compassion is all about. Even if we don’t yet know how to help or relate to people, we can have it in our hearts to care about them.
Our relationship with God is integral to our being compelled to care for others. Caring for others isn’t necessarily easy. But we can all start somewhere.
Having compassion relates to thinking about people and doing something practical to assist them, even something small. It can be demonstrated in everyday acts, like showing people you value them, especially those who others may not treat well.
Step by step, caring and acts of compassion can increase. These begin with first putting your feelings into action. Small acts of compassion go a long way in helping and encouraging people in ways we’ll never know. They also help us. Sharing kindness can make us happier people.
But what if a stranger you speak to doesn’t say anything back or seems annoyed at you? Think of your words as a small gift with nothing expected in return. The person probably feels at least a little better on the inside, even if it doesn’t show on the outside.
There is a battle within many of us—a fight within ourselves against apathy and our own self-centeredness—as we weigh our wants and needs against the needs of others. In my book, 7 Attitudes of the Helping Heart: How to Live Out Your Faith and Care for the Poor, I name this the “beast of resistance.” It attacks us when we think about taking action to help others, such as when we’re deciding how much to give to charity. Effective compassion requires that we acknowledge this battle and fight the beast of resistance. Recognizing it—even talking about it—can help us reflect on how we can best care for those in need, whether they need emotional support and friendship, money, or something else.
Being compassionate means being aware of the needs of others, wherever they live in the world, and taking action to respond to those needs. This is compassion, rooted in love.
The following are questions to reflect on, a prayer to recite, and a challenge to help you intentionally develop more compassion in your life.
How do the ways we act toward people reflect our attitude toward God?
In what ways might you struggle with being compassionate?
In what ways do you find the “beast of resistance” in your own heart?
Dear God, fill my heart with compassion and lead my hands to be your hands on Earth. Help me to understand how to care for others, and what that looks like in my life. Throughout each day, shine through me so that others may be encouraged by my words and actions. And help me to know how to respond to the needs of others, wherever and whomever they are. Amen.
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Today, look for an opportunity where you can share God’s love and peace with someone. It may be speaking encouraging words to a stranger, visiting an elderly person, or something else. Reflect on how you felt before and after.
John Christopher Frame is an author and a faculty member at an online university. He has lived internationally and holds a PhD from the University of Oxford. John’s passion is combining his interests in theology and social concerns to help Christians become more aware of global issues so they can better live out their faith. John is the author of two books, including 7 Attitudes of the Helping Heart: How to Live Out Your Faith and Care for the Poor. He loves traveling on the cheap, visiting outdoor markets, balcony gardening, and working in quirky cafés in his neighborhood. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, whom he met while buying a carpet at a souvenir shop in Istanbul, Turkey. Download his free action guide, 7 Days to Upping Your Prayer Life, Loving Others, and Having More Joy at: http://www.johnchristopherframe.com/prayer