Possibly as long as a decade or more ago, I was blessed to hear Wallace (he called himself Wally) Goddard speak at a Single Adult conference. I had been reading blog posts and other things that he had written before, and I have been reading them since. I have always felt that I sat that day in the presence of a man who had a firm testimony and a vibrant, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my Savior.
If you follow the link, you will see that this article was published roughly 1 ½ years ago. It impressed me deeply enough that I knew that I wanted to reflect on his impressions and observations one day, but there were always other topics that came up that seemed more pressing. Today, I’d like to go back and look at compassion.
The first thing that Brother Goddard looks at is the definition and true essence of compassion – a feeling deep and moving. Compassion outstrips pity. Compassion is more than just feeling vaguely sorry for someone’s predicament. Compassion is being so unified and understanding of what another person is experiencing that it is often as if we are experiencing it ourselves. Compassion is so moving that we almost can’t help ourselves in wanting to alleviate some of the burden that another is shouldering.
Brother Goddard says this about finding compassion:
“Clearly, we should not be glib about the challenge of showing compassion. We simply are not capable of true compassion without heavenly help. Only when we have the mind and heart of Christ can we truly show compassion.
One of the great ironies of parenting is that compassion may be hardest to show to those we know best. Over time we build images and expectations for people we know. We start to think we understand their motives, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. But we rarely realize that we see through a glass darkly. We see only a blurry likeness of a person. Our own biases and needs block our understanding of that person’s heart.”
There really is something to the stories of feeling total compassion and going to great lengths to help a starving child in a far-off country while our children are hungry because we aren’t available to prepare them a meal!
Brother Goddard then wisely teaches that having true compassion not only requires receiving it from the Savior, we have to have the humility to be able to admit that we don’t know every experience that someone else has had, and so we don’t know why something that looks foolish (or worse) seemed logical to someone else. We also need to be able to truly listen – the kind of hearing that creates understanding in our own hearts.
There is much more to the article, but I was left with the understanding that compassion rests upon our relationship with God and our willingness to relate to others – whether they be our children, our spouses, our friends, or even our enemies – with the understanding that we DON’T understand it all.
True compassion, then, seeks to help in appropriate, meaningful ways by seeking to build relationships, help where needed, and to guide and strengthen.
In the scriptures, I think the word most often used is “charity.”