Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Person and the Art of Compassion

Most people want to be compassionate. Anything, therefore, that contributes to their practical understanding of the suffering of others has interest and value.

We do need to learn how to build one another up, to share one another's burdens. That's why it's important to listen to one another's stories and to tell our own.

There is also much to learn from the accumulated wisdom of older people and the experience of professional caregivers. We will find many common themes that can give us a broad outline of the "art" of compassion and the ways of expressing and living empathy and solidarity.

But no amount of knowledge or experience can give us a guaranteed "formula" for approaching human suffering and loving another human person perfectly, without mistakes. True compassion is always personal, and the only way to really learn it is in-relationship-with-the-particular-person, by living that precise relationship with patience and persistence.

We need to stay with one another and keep loving one another concretely even though we will always make mistakes. We will always be weak; we will always fall short in love, and we will often hurt one another. We must try as hard as we can and learn as much as we can to grapple with this problem, but we will never eradicate it entirely.

Only Jesus solves it, but he doesn't solve it by magic. He works in us through real life, with our good intentions, our weakness, our efforts to learn, our commitment to one another as persons, and the forgiveness, perseverance, hope, and compassion for one another that His Spirit engenders within us.