Compassion thaws coldness between neighbours. It forms bridges between people in moments of suffering. It makes the pain of people matter. Compassion is a conduit of care. It confirms the necessity of our connectedness. The absence of compassion would mean that we would be indifferent to unfortunate events happening to others. Compassion makes you look over the fence of a troubled neighbour then jump over to go relieve their pain. Abundant compassion contributes significantly to abundant life. Compassion generates a community’s warmth as well as human-to-human security. Where there is compassion, people feel safer and worry less because they know that their worries will be shared.
Compassion is essential in every front of the community. A parent at home, a teacher in school, a priest in a church, a politician in Parliament, a manager in a cooperation society, an officer in the police station, a doctor in the operating room – we all need it.
A leader without compassion is heartless and cares for nothing apart from their interests. There are those who see compassion as a weakness and see sensitivity as an impurity. A shortage of compassion leads to arrogance, brutality and diminution. Leaders who suppress compassion become slave drivers to those they lead. Failing to achieve an assigned task for whatever reason attracts maximum consequences. Calls for relief and breathers fall on deaf ears. You cry alone –in hiding - and wipe your tears before reappearing.
Mercy and kindness
Jesus did not only exemplify compassion – He embodied it. He did not merely do it, He was it. He was moved by the plight of the people. Compassion is a good conductor of love. Many biblical miracles have compassion as their springboard. Compassion provides the best motive for acts of mercy and kindness. It provides a solid base for goodness. Disciples of Christ are called to mirror His compassion.
Following Christ includes living a trail of mercy and kindness. It is unimaginable that one can be a Christian yet empty of compassion. It is this expectation that makes the larger community disappointed when there is a situation of need and the church, passive and clueless takes a spectator poise. The church is expected to be the leader in compassion.
Everyone needs a serving of compassion. No one is exclusively a consumer of compassion. We must all be simultaneously producers of it. We are made not just to be felt for but also to feel for others. To suppress a person’s sense of compassion is to evoke indifference and worse, their brutality. A community characterised by Pharaoh’s heart breeds oppression. Affirmation of compassion reinforces its existence, increasing the chances of its multiplication. Public hailing of compassion lights its spark in others. Compassion is infectious.
To hinder the expression of compassion is to block significant transformative possibilities that can only emerge from moved hearts. When hearts are rightly moved, authentic loving actions are launched. Some of the largest humanitarian drives such as the We Are the World project have compassion as their base.
Compassion can come from an individual. Recently, there was a widely publicised media report on a boy from Kilifi who could not pay attention in class due to hunger. Some individuals were moved beyond mere pity and mobilised resources and delivered food to the family and the school. In the same county, a woman was captured digging up tough earth seeking roots to eat with her family. Later, a report showed her smiling with a beautiful nearly completed house in the background. The house was built by individuals exercising compassion.
Improvement of life
Compassion can be institutional. A guard at Wilson airport collected a bag with two million shillings and surrendered it back to the tourist owner. When the International Leadership University (ILU) heard of this remarkable act of integrity, they did not only send a “well done!” note to this lady of integrity, they gave her a full scholarship for a training programme in the institution. This exemplifies institutional sensitivity.
Compassion can be national. In the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, victims have been displaced and some have moved to Germany and Poland. At no notice at all these countries opened their borders to fleeing Ukrainian nationals in search of safety. Welcoming these refugees means an allocation of resources for their maintenance. This involves allocation of budgets and revision of priorities. The commitment to maintain these displaced individuals for an unknown duration is a display of nations exercising empathy.
Compassion is multipliable. Even the hardest hearts cannot disable the capacity of the eyes to shed a tear. Pharaoh had to let God’s people free when the firstborn was struck dead. Everyone has their tear-provoking emotion. With the knowledge that every heart is moveable, it is up to storytellers in the community to determine how to move hearts. It is critical that this moving of hearts be towards constructing broken walls in the community.
Stirring emotions in the right direction makes compassion a critical contributor to the improvement of life. Often, only the horror side of stories is told. Such leaves the hearts of hearers paralysed not knowing how to respond. But when a teary story is told with a compassionate response tied to it, hearts see the power of compassionate action. They understand their compassion as an asset to effect life-changing responses.