The Beauty of Compassion
AMONG the things that contribute to the joy of living is beauty. And there are various kinds of beauty. There is beauty that appeals to the senses, such as beautiful sights and sounds. There is also beauty that appeals to the intellect, such as beautiful literature. But among the most beautiful things in life are those having a moral beauty.
A moral beauty? Yes, the beauty that appeals to the best in us, to our consciences, to our ideals. Deeds that are unselfish, that are self-sacrificing, are truly beautiful. And in particular is the showing of compassion a beautiful thing.
What is this beautiful quality of compassion? According to the Oxford Dictionary, compassion is “the feeling or emotion, when a person is moved by the suffering or distress of another, and by the desire to relieve it.” In other words, compassion comes to the aid of those needing help, either physically or spiritually, or those wanting forgiveness.
How far removed some people are today from showing compassion! For example, the New York Times, March 18, 1969, reported on page one, “Bound Youth Burned to Death: 19 Seized.” This was the way one motorcycle gang wreaked vengeance on the leader of a rival gang. The same newspaper, April 2, told of a man stringing up an eighteen-month-old baby in a bathroom and lashing her with a buckled belt, the child being the baby of the woman with whom he was living. Cut loose, she was allowed to fall to the floor, where she was allowed to lie with a broken arm for two days. People far removed from compassion are also far removed from God. How so?
Because compassion is one of God’s qualities, even as the Bible repeatedly shows. It was “in the compassion of Jehovah” that angelic messengers hurried Lot and his family out of the doomed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Gen. 19:16, 17) Throughout its history Jehovah God showed the nation of Israel compassion, even as we read: “Jehovah the God of their forefathers kept sending against them by means of his messengers, sending again and again, because he felt compassion for his people and for his dwelling.” And regarding those who faithfully serve him today he says: “I will show compassion upon them, just as a man shows compassion upon his son who is serving him.”—2 Chron. 36:15; Mal. 3:17.
Jesus Christ, the Son of Jehovah God, appreciated the value and need of showing compassion, as can be seen by both his words and his actions. He contrasted the compassionate father of the prodigal son with the older brother, who failed to show compassion. He also contrasted the good Samaritan who showed compassion for the man beaten, robbed and left half dead on the highway, with the priest and Levite who ignored the victim, showing no compassion.—Luke 10:30-33; 15:20, 27-32, RS.
And Jesus practiced what he preached. In fact, it might be said that his entire earthly ministry was devoted to showing compassion to the spiritually and physically needy and suffering. Thus we read that, “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” They needed spiritual help and he gave it to them by teaching them. And how often he showed compassion for their physical needs, curing the sick, feeding the multitudes and even raising the dead, restoring loved ones.—Matt. 9:36; 11:28-30; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13, RS.
How can you show compassion? One way is by coming to the help of those who may have had some mishap. For example, a young woman slipped and fell on a busy sidewalk in Brooklyn not long ago. She was struggling to get up but was ignored until a Christian couple came along who asked, “Would you want us to help you?” She replied, “I’d appreciate it very much if you would.” As they helped her up the couple noticed that her one arm was in a cast. She had previously broken her wrist. No wonder she had difficulty in getting back on her feet!
Another way you can show compassion is by being forgiving. Jesus highlighted this in his parable about the slave who had been forgiven a large debt but who refused to forgive a small debt that another slave owed him. The unforgiving slave was thrown into prison until he should pay back all he owed. Applying this principle, Jesus said: “In like manner my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.” In keeping with this parable is the counsel of the apostle Paul: “Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”—Matt. 18:23-35; Eph. 4:32.
Christian ministers have a unique privilege of showing compassion by bringing to those hungering and thirsting for righteousness the good news of God’s kingdom. Just as it was during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, there are many today who are like sheep without a shepherd.—Matt. 24:14.
What will help you to show compassion? A number of qualities. One is humility. As a result of exercising this quality you will not feel above those needing help. Another quality is contentment. It keeps you from being too busy to help needy ones. Still another quality is empathy. To the extent that you are able to put yourself in another’s shoes, you will be able to show compassion. And most important of all is love, unselfish love of neighbor, even as Jesus showed in his parable of the Good Samaritan. Fitting here are the words of the apostle John: “Whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him?”—1 John 3:17.
Yes, unselfish, principled love in particular will help you to manifest the beautiful quality of compassion.