Compassion, Not Judgment

Compassion, Not Judgment September 7, 2022

Lalesh Aldarwish: Open Hand / Stocksnap.io

Our habits and desires often make us react to others in ways which are not as charitable or compassionate as we should. When they do so, we must work to overcome them and put them aside. For, we are called to look out at others with a heart filled with compassion, treating others as we would like to be treated. We should be able to sympathize with pains and sorrows others feel, having experienced similar troubles ourselves. And when we see people we can help, we should do what we can. If they need someone who is willing to listen to them, we should give them our ear and engage them, not with judgment, but with love.

We must realize and accept we will never have all the solutions. We don’t need to. What we need to do is act with love, helping people without imposing ourselves on them, that is, without telling them what to do as if we had all the answers. Of course, if they ask for our advice, we should give it, pointing out, in all humility, the limitations of our knowledge and understanding. That way, they will know what we offer are suggestions which they use if they look like they would help, but  also showing to them that we would not be upset if they do not take up and use everything we should say. Our interest should be in their well-being, and this is what should be made clear when we talk with them. When we engage others this way, we imitate and so become more like God, for God, who is all-compassionate, and comforts us with that compassion, also makes room for us so that we can make decisions for ourselves. And, insofar as we have been comforted by God, we should share what we have received with others, so that they might also experience such comfort for themselves, as Paul explained:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Cor. 1:3-4 RSV).

By embracing compassion, we embrace the pathos of God. God cares for all, is concerned for all, sympathizes with all, and indeed, seeks the best for all. Such compassion is revealed in the merciful way God deals with us. Thus, the more we follow after God, and God’s love, the more we will treat others with mercy, showing in and through that mercy, the love which we have for them. This is why we must not think kindness is a fault, but rather, realize it is a part of the way we are expected to act towards others:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (Col. 3:12-13 RSV).

We are to be gracious even as God is gracious; those who are humble, those who do not exalt themselves above others, but rather, lower themselves so that they should be able to be with others where they are at, are the ones most capable of such compassion:

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Yea, O people in Zion who dwell at Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you (Isa. 30:18-19 RSV).

The incarnation, therefore, shows us the great, all-enduring compassion of God; the kenosis of the Word of God has God the Word be with us and the rest of creation so that, as the God-man, Jesus, he endures all things for the sake of the salvation of all. Likewise, we should embrace others, and, following the kenosis of the Word of God, we should be willing to lower or empty ourselves of all pretense of earthly glory and honor so that we will be free to go to those most in need of our love and compassion, those who are often themselves seen as lowly and rejected by society. Of course, we must be honest with them, for they will be able to tell when our compassion is fake, and that we have some other objective in mind than their own good. And if we find that they do not want to accept us and our love, we should give them space, but in doing so, we must make sure we still have care and compassion for us, as this is exactly what God has done for us:

To resemble God is this: to be beneficent to the ungrateful, to seek the lost, and to keep by one’s own labor and effort the one found, to resemble the Son of God who gave himself to death for our sake – who through his voluntary suffering delivered us from servitude to sin and invited us to the good life and its good things, who made us worthy to receive the Holy Spirit. [1]

If we do not do this, if we do not embrace such compassion, and with it, the love which we should have, especially for those society has rejected and given up to perish, we risk losing the mercy and compassion which we have received. To help us find a way to love everyone, we should try to see the image and likeness of God in everyone. Often, we will find it difficult to do so, because that image comes to us in a defiled form, covered up by sin. And yet, Jesus came to us when we were sinners, when the image and likeness of God was covered up by our own misdeeds. If we try to find some excuse to ignore others, and the compassion which they need, we risk covering up and defiling the image of God in ourselves, and in doing so, hindering our own reception of grace. This is why, if we ignore compassion, if we do not embrace it, we will find ourselves moving further and further away from the mercy and grace which we need, and so ending up suffering the consequences of our own indifference or animosity. But yet, when that happens, when we stumble, and fall away from mercy and grace, God will continue to show us compassion and grace, following after us, making sure we have every opportunity to change, and so, we, likewise, when we have experienced that change in ourselves, must always do the same with others. We must not give up on them. We must love them. We must be compassionate with them. We must not seek to control them but just welcome them with love. It will not always be easy. We will likely make mistakes, but the more we do so, the more we will be working for a better world, because when we embrace compassion, we give to the world what it needs for positive change.


[1] Moralia et Ascetica Armeniaca: The Oft-Repeated Discourses. Trans. Abraham Terian (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 2021), 248 [Discourse 20].

 

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