When Compassion is Hard

Have you seen the article floating around Facebook about the woman who helped a man who pooped in a grocery store? I think it happened in my town, y’all.

I’m not kidding. I am member of a neighborhood group page. Some time ago, someone posted about a person who had an accident at the local Kroger.

A few were sympathetic to the poor man’s plight – he has colon cancer. Although that wasn’t known at the time of the post.

Some people poked fun at the incident, and developed a coarse nickname for the store.

when-compassion-is-hard

A good number of people were indignant at the fact that a young employee was asked to clean up the mess. Several wondered why the store didn’t call in a hazmat team.

But I don’t remember anyone recognizing that management and some customers may have been more concerned about helping a man regain some dignity.

For months afterwards, I’d read the occasional sarcastic post. “Shopped at Kroger today, and no poop to be found!”

I chuckled at that one. Not good.

Jesus spent most of his ministry helping those in need, and admonishing his disciples to do the same. I am reminded of Jesus’ summary of God’s laws: Love the Lord my God with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind, and love others as myself.

Beyond bowel problems and inappropriate potty humor, I find some things easier to do than others. Feed the hungry? Sure, here are some cans for the local food bank. Clothe the naked? Absolutely, where do I drop off the clothes? Pray for healing for all the people with health problems in my life group? It’s logged in my prayer app, and I’m on it.

Make a meal for someone who’s sick? Well, that’s a little harder logistically, because my pride will only let me do home-cooked. Spend time at a stranger’s bedside who’s lonely? Really, have you even seen my schedule?

Ouch.

Love on that person who hurt you?

Double ouch.

See, there is girl at school who was saying hurtful things to my son, and she was hitting where he was vulnerable.  This summer I learned from mutual acquaintances just how unstable her home life is. Clearly, she’s acting out, and it’s heartbreaking. And I said to myself, “Self, you’re resenting a 12-year-old who’s an emotional wreck.”

Ooh, boy, is that convicting.

But see there’s also this teacher. The year my son was in her class, she exhibited very little compassion towards him and some of the difficulties he was having. It’s been hard for me to think kindly of her, because it’s been three years, and we’re still working through those difficulties.

He’s needed professional help.  At one place a few months back, my son and I were walking down the hall, and guess who we ran into? Yep, that teacher. My son said her daughter was getting help, too.  Still, it didn’t dawn on me how little compassion I held for her.  Not until I ran into her again couple of weeks ago.

At my very own church.

There she was, passing me by, and I felt a spiritual slap upside the head. It should have happened long before now, but it finally clicked in my heart, not just my brain, that her daughter is struggling just like my son.  How could I not have compassion when I know first-hand what she’s going through?!

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

The law of Christ – love God with everything in me, and love others as myself. How better to do that than bearing their burdens? But the reality is I am an imperfect person serving a perfect God.  Left to myself, I’d just do the easy and run from the hard.  I need Him to teach me how to have compassion on those He loves, even the hard ones, and bear with them in their struggles.  Because sometimes their struggles are eerily, conveniently similar to mine.

So how do I show compassion for these two people who have not been so nice to my family?

I have no direct connection to the girl, so all I can really do for her is pray for healing in her family and for God to bring loving adults into her life.

Now that teacher, though. Isn’t it interesting how God brought her to my attention?  I’m praying, too, for healing of her daughter and their family.  I’m also praying that if God wants me to be more hands on, the opportunity will arise.

It’s gonna be hard, but I may have to hunt her down to make that happen.

Beloved, let us love one another, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7

Showing compassion is hard. Or at least it's often not our first instinct. So how do we overcome our natural reaction that would keep us from acting, from helping, from showing kindness when we see a need?

Sonja GonzalezSonja is mom of two sons and wife of one crazy Cuban. Her boys keep her hopping and share her coffee habit, which is awesome for her rewards points. For money, she helps people plan for retirement. For fun, she reads, draws stick figures in her journaling Bible, and spends too much time on social media.

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Here at Middle Places we LOVE a good story. Everybody is making their way through the middle of something and we'd love to hear about yours. Please send an email to editor@middleplaces.com or check out our Contact page if you'd like to share your story with us and our readers.
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