Sometimes I get tired of being in my office to do my computer work, so I decided to take a day to work in Panera Bread Store. So I checked in with the secretary in the afternoon I made my way down to the Southgate Panera Bread Store to get some work done.
While I was reading an email, I looked up and noticed a couple. The woman was facing me, and the man was facing the other direction. She seemed giddy to see him. As a matter of fact she was positively glowing. Since I hate seeing lovey dovey couples and public displays of affection other than hand holding, I rolled my eyes and sighed.
I continued on with other work, and then looked up again. All of the sudden her face went from giddy, to quizzical, to angry, to crestfallen. I assumed the guy had broken up with the woman. She ran out of the place crying. He looked around, grabbed the meals, quickly threw them away and followed soon after. All of the sudden my judgements changed. Instead of thinking the mushy couple was disgusting and annoying, I began to think the guy was a jerk. He made a beautiful woman cry after all. How uncompassionate! How rude!
Then I realized that I had made people cry at times too. And while sometimes I felt like they were crying because I was a jerk (and I can be that), there are other times I have made people so upset that they cried and I felt like I said and did the right thing. Whats more, sometimes I have made people cry and felt like I was very compassionate. This leads me to believe that there are times when we confuse compassion and love with niceness and popularity. Maybe making the woman cry at that moment was the most compassionate thing for her in the long run. Who knows?
Let me give you an example that does not have that much importance. Their have been times where I rushed out of the house and threw on a shirt as I went. I went through my day. I was wearing the shirt for hours. Then, in the middle of the afternoon I notice that my shirt is on backwards. People notice, but nobody points this out to me. Are they being compassionate? Not really. They are just avoiding dealing with a situation that might embarrass them.
As I see it, true compassion includes speaking the truth in love. It at times includes confronting people who are doing immoral, self-destructive, or hurtful things, and realizing that this act of compassion may cause the other party to be less invested in that relationship. They may even abandon it all together.
Compassion is about caring so much about somebody that their hurt in some way pains you as well, and in turn spurs you to action. Sometimes that may mean giving money to a homeless person. Sometimes that may mean discontinuing helping someone who is using your help in an unhealthy way. Sometimes that means offering a guilt ridden person God's grace and love. Sometimes that means holding up a mirror to someone's sin and asking them to stop. Being nice doesn't always mean being kind. Sometimes being nice is just a cover for the selfishness of being a classic conflict avoider.
We are often good at being nice and being polite. But sometimes we struggle to be truly compassionate. We need to be compassionate enough to be both completely grace-filled and brutally honest when it is appropriate. May God bless us in the journey.