Tuesday, January 8

showing compassion.

Around my last birthday, I set a personal goal to be more compassionate, and COMPASSION is my guiding word for 2013.  What I've realized recently is that "more compassionate" was really my euphemistic way of saying "less selfish."  I think I have to admit to myself that I'm a self-centered person before the process of projecting my energy outward can really gain any leverage.  And let me tell you, I've realized that self-centeredness and introversion are a truly dangerous combination.

We are living in a time that encourages self-centeredness.  We don't just have names and identities but e-mail addresses, Facebook pages, Twitter and Instagram feeds, Tumblrs and blogs.  We are encouraged to "brand" ourselves and market that brand.

On the last day of December I attended a surprise baby shower for a college friend, J.  J and I were members of the same religious fellowship in college, as was the party hostess.  J's husband B was also a member of our fellowship.  Most of the other party guests were girlfriends and wives of J's husband's roommates.  I'd had nerf gun fights and snowfall fights and food fights and long, deep talks about God with those boys while God was preparing these girls to be their wives; I should have run in and wrapped them all in a great big hug and thanked them for loving my friends.  Instead, my judgmental instinct was to think, "I've known J longer than they have, who do they think they are?"

On that afternoon I saw such compassion.  My friend Z creating a beautiful party for J and giving us all a job so that we could all feel like it was "our" party for her.  My grad school roommate M admitting to me that she was uncomfortable around those strange girls - her admission was a gift to me that instantly let me know she was as grateful for my presence as I was for hers, and at that moment we were more open to finding out who those girls were.

M is a wonder of compassion.  With just little details remembered from stories told five years ago or Facebook or friends' stories, she was able to strike up conversations with those girls and make everyone more comfortable, whereas my instinct would have been to cling to my one friend and hide in a corner.  I want to be the kind of person who remembers those details.  Who reaches out.  Who is not afraid.

To close J's shower, we laid hands on her to pray aloud for her, B, and their baby girl.  I heard such words of kindness and there was no doubt in my mind that each woman who spoke to God on behalf of J was filled with compassion, at least in that moment.

With the compassion I saw on that last day of December in mind, here are three ways I want to put compassion into action this month:

- Send at least three pieces of snail mail to friends I haven't been able to visit or speak to for a while.

- Choose a special student to focus my energy on each week (I started doing this during my student teaching,  as a way to remind myself to reach out to students I might otherwise overlook, but haven't done it as much lately).

- Remember important details from conversations I have with friends, family members, and coworkers (even if this means writing them down because I struggle with short-term memory).


The Lettered Cottage


  1. I really like how you identified a moment when your judgment came out and yet you found a way to turn it around. I don't think we look at our own behavior enough. I also really like your three little goals. :)

  2. What a great post! Yes, we should all show more compassion for one another, for there is enough turmoil and anguish out there in the real world to test our patience. Visit me to see how we enthrall the good old USPS with our snail mail. And remember Random Acts of Kindness go along way and will give you the same warm, fuzzy feeling that you have bestowed upon another. Please read more about that here:


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