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Compassion - A Virtue of Transformation



Colossians 3:12

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”


As we continue our journey through virtues, let us remember that every virtue is a gift of Spirit and reflects God’s love within us. Every virtue, in some way, is the refracted essence of love. Love is the diamond, and virtues are the individual facets cut by Spirit. In worldly diamonds, the more facets showing, the more the diamond shines. The same is true with our spiritual virtues. The more of God’s virtues we display, the more our light shines.


The virtue I want to focus on this week is compassion. I speak of it frequently, and it falls closely under the umbrella of love. Compassion is the ability to empathize with others’ suffering, accompanied by the desire to alleviate that suffering. It goes beyond mere sympathy; it involves taking positive action.


Compassion is a transformative virtue. It is a recurrent theme of Scripture, revealing God’s character and calling us to emulate His compassion toward others. The distress of others ignites our hearts and compels us to take outward action — to ease their suffering out of love for God and love for our neighbors. Compassion is not only a virtue but also a divine command. It is one of God’s laws written upon our heart, and we can feel it stirring within us, urging us into action and directing our thoughts and feelings.


God is the ultimate example of compassion. His love and mercy extend to all humanity. Psalm 86:15 describes God as “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” and Scripture urges us to adopt this nature. Christ demonstrated compassion throughout his ministry, healing the sick, comforting the broken-hearted, and feeding the hungry. Matthew 9:36 tells us that when Jesus “…saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”


Most of the world feels the power of compassion. But have you considered what the world would be like if there was no compassion, sympathy, or empathy? A world devoid of compassion would be stark and cold, lacking the warmth that binds humanity together. People would live in isolation, disconnected from one another, indifferent to their distress. There would be no comforting hand during grief, no shared laughter, and no understanding nods. Without compassion caring would fade away and we would cease to feel the pain of others or celebrate their joys.


Since compassion tempers judgment, in its absence, instead of understanding, we would condemn. Sympathy directs us to help those in need. Without it, we would focus solely on our own desires, leading to a self-centered existence. Compassion fuels justice. Its disappearance would allow cruelty to thrive. The vulnerable would suffer without anyone to advocate for them. Families, friendships, communities, and nations would fracture because empathy is the glue binding all relationships; its lack would lead to separation and division. Compassion also extends to our relationship with the environment, and without it, we would exploit nature without remorse.


Compassion is a spiritual virtue and from its loss there would be a void, a world lacking depth and purpose. Art and creativity would diminish because compassion inspires art, music, and literature. Without the arts there would be a colorless cacophonous existence.

Compassion offers hope and its absence leads to despair.


As we can see, compassion is the heartbeat of our shared humanity. It attunes our hearts, minds, and souls to the breath and word of Spirit. With it gone we are blind, deaf, and paralyzed children of God, living in a desolate and bleak place indeed.


When I witness someone reaching out to help, I am filled with reverence. I see their heart, I see their courage, and they inspire me. I feel the same when some area of the world needs aid and the United States and other countries unify to offer assistance. It is our compassion that most clearly defines our humanity, who we are as an individual and a nation. As author John Connolly wrote, “The nature of humanity, its essence, is to feel another’s pain as one’s own, and to act to take that pain away. There is nobility in compassion, a beauty in empathy, a grace in forgiveness.”


Compassion holds immense value in our lives and in society. It bridges gaps between people and fosters empathy and understanding. When we show compassion, we acknowledge our shared humanity and connect on a deeper level. Sympathy prompts us to act when we see others suffering. Whether it is comforting a friend, volunteering at a shelter, or supporting a cause, compassion drives positive change and benefits both the giver and the receiver.


When we truly see others as a child of God, we break down barriers and challenge stereotypes and biases. Through compassion we become agents of change, advocating for social justice, environmental protection, and equality. Under the influence of compassion, we align with the virtues of kindness and selflessness, which enriches our lives, strengthens communities, and contributes to a more benevolent world.


We can become more compassionate, and this often requires that we abandon old habits. We can begin by truly listening to others without interrupting or judging. We can educate ourself about diverse cultures, backgrounds, and life situations and understand that we are not all alike, and that is not a bad thing.


To develop compassion, do compassionate things. Engage in community service or volunteer work. Perform small acts of kindness daily. We can practice forgiveness, both for ourself and others. Compassion involves understanding that everyone makes mistakes. Let us choose words and actions that uplift, encourage, and avoid harsh judgments or criticism. Compassion begins with the self. Let us treat ourself kindly and acknowledge our own struggles. In the words of religious author Dieter Utchdorf, “Let our hearts be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path.”


Jesus shares the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. The younger son squanders his inheritance on reckless living and ends up destitute. When he returns home, expecting judgment, his father runs to embrace him, forgives him, and celebrates his return.

The elder son’s resentment highlights the tension between legalism and compassion. The father’s response underscores the unconditional and forgiving nature of compassion. This story reminds us that compassion has the power to heal, restore, and transform lives.


We are instruments of God’s pure love in our world. Compassion is a form of love that is generous in nature and involves a willingness to give. With compassion, there is no desire to have an agenda or to control. There is only a desire to give love and understanding without reservation. As we open our heart and mind to God’s love in our prayer time, our capacity to love expands, and we are prepared to express compassion in all that we think, say, and do. When we look at circumstances around us with sensitive understanding, we view others compassionately. We hear what they are really saying because compassion improves our listening; we listen beyond their words and hear their heart.


It is my prayer that we embrace our inner compassion and release it into the world with God’s blessings. God’s love compels us to show compassion to one another. It is both a divine expectation and a reflection of our transformed heart. I pray that we understand compassion to be an important virtue and a powerful force for positive change in our lives and the lives of others.


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