Compassion. This is something that seems to be in short supply. Not pity, mind you. Pity can be sorry for someone's circumstance ... but compassion compels one to do something about it.
This takes me to the thought: why is there a shortage of compassion? On page 111 Scot gives three reasons:
- "Sometimes we treat the needy as if they are pariahs, as if they have done something to deserve their fate."
- "Sometimes our social allergies to others are the result of a moral judgment."
- "More often they come from a profound inner disturbance of not knowing what to do with people who have profound needs.
The second one grabbed me. "Social allergies" indeed! Having struggled for many years with significant allergies, I certainly made connections with this one. Allergies are basically the brain mistaking something that is not harmful with something that is. Somehow, sometime, somewhere (even in one's ancestors), the innocent item got associated with a bad experience of the individual and became an "allergen" to be protected against in the future. We can be allergic to anything (including people!) -- even combinations of things! And when we have become allergic to something, the reaction to them becomes unconscious ... and sometimes violent.
Going along with yesterday's post -- about needing to be healed before we can offer healing -- goes right along with this. When a "social allergy" becomes recognized, we must go to the Great Physician and seek healing and release so that we can serve more effectively.
I'll be thinking about this allergy thing for a while longer.....
But it is the third one that I believe is the most prevalent -- we just don't know what to do to meet the profound needs of others. We don't know what to say. We don't know how to act. We don't know....
And so this is what I wrote in my journal:
This seems to me to be the challenge of the everyday living of the Jesus Creed -- observing those in need, discerning the nature of the true need, having compassion, and then doing something to actually meet their need.
...just today I was reminded of the phrase "hurting people hurt people" in the context of pondering the myth of the wounded hero ... which made me think "healed people heal people." We do not reach out because we are not healed ourselves. Wow. People hide behind their appearance of "okay-ness" and so are unable to see another's needs -- being blinded by their own unhealed wounds and unmet needs.
One of the things that Purple Martyrdom is not about is feeling smug about one's own suffering. As if it is a badge of holiness. No, that is a form of self-righteousness that can be both delusional and destructive.
Some people have come to define themselves by their suffering. They do not want to be healed because they don't know how to be different -- and they don't want to be accountable for actually living The Jesus Creed -- as if their suffering is a permanent excuse from discipleship.
But The Purple Martyrdom is seeking healing from Jesus at all levels -- physical, emotional and spiritual -- but not allowing those wounds to "let us off the hook" for obedience to the call to follow Jesus by loving God and loving others.
The truth of Christ's words to Paul that "my strength is made perfect in weakness" is the paradox embraced by those who live The Purple Martyrdom. In the very midst of our woundedness, we find that Christ's grace is sufficient. We are able to serve out of our weakness because of Christ's strength that comes into play because of our weakness.
But we serve at Christ's bidding -- not our own or others. He gives us strength to accomplish his mission.
Sometimes we are blessed by a return to health ... sometimes not ... sometimes it is partial or temporary ... always it is in connection with a task set before us. And so we come to see any progress in our situation as a preparation for service. It is a very subtle change in perspective.
Now that I have pondered it a bit longer, it is, actually, more nuanced and reminds me of Calvin Miller's classic The Singer -- where the hands that reach out in compassion are hands that have been horribly broken. Being healed means that they are capable of doing what needs to be done ... but it is impossible not to notice the scars....
It's not that one glories in the wounds and scars -- that's back to a false purple. It's that one doesn't let the wounds and scars stop them from allowing Christ to bring glory to God in the midst of their circumstances.
When we let Jesus reach out through us to others who suffer as we suffer, we offer them a powerful hope that does not disappoint.
...I'll be pondering this some more.
Leaning on Papa.