Empathy in action

Originally posted August 20, 2019

Let’s talk about compassion.  In the gospel stories we are told that when Jesus saw groups of people he was moved with compassion.  Compassion isn’t the same as sympathy, which allows us to put ourselves (consciously or unconsciously) above the person we are considering when we see them as lacking something that we currently have and we feel sorry for them and want to “fix” them.  

Compassion is more than empathy.  When we empathize, we feel what the person is feeling and connect with them deeply.  Compassion is empathy in action. We feel what they are feeling and are moved to do something to help them heal. 

I do believe that we are each other’s keeper.  We are in this amazing journey of life on earth together.  We need each other.  I cannot control what you think, say, or do.  Half the time I feel as if I can’t even control what I think, say, or do.  But I can open myself up to God’s shaping of my heart and mind so that with the abilities I do have, I can love you and my fellow human beings better and better. I can see others with the same lens of compassion that Jesus saw people so that I am moved to help alleviate another’s suffering and pain.  Imagine if all of us made this our goal – to see others with compassion and help to alleviate their hurt.  

Compassion requires us to take what is happening in our world personally because we are all persons, human beings created by the loving, living God who created us to love (nope, not a typo) on earth as it is in heaven.

Each of us individually can make a difference and collectively we CAN CHANGE THE WORLD from “the nightmare it often is to the dream that God intends” (I borrow that phrase from The Right Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church).

I invite you to do two things.  First, engage in this conversation with me and others who post.  Don’t just applaud what I say (although I do sincerely appreciate your accolades, I’d like to know your thoughts as well).  The second is to pray the prayer of St. Francis, at least once a day.  And make note of what’s happening to you in between as God shows you real life ways to grow your compassion.

“Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

Hurting, healing, and loving

Originally posted August 13, 2020

Hurt people hurt people.  Healed people heal people.  I’m not sure where I first came across that saying but I do know it is true.  Think about the last time you were hurt by another person. What did you “do” with your hurt?  Do you react and hurt them back (or even just think about doing it for a little bit)? Did you stuff it down so that it manifested itself physically in you? Or let multiple hurts accumulate and blow up at something or someone else?  (Be patient, we will get to the “this is supposed to make me feel better” part soon,  I promise.)  Now, if your own hurt caused you to hurt another (or in stuffing it, yourself), think about what might have happened to the person who hurt you that lead to their behavior. 

How do we move from our own hurt to healing so that we can help others heal?  We are all hurting in one way or another, to one degree or another.  And, we all need to be able to name our hurt to be able to manage it rather than letting the hurt manage us.  Even the strongest of us are hurting.  How are you hurting? How do you react to being hurt? Before we can help others heal from hurting, we have to acknowledge our own need for healing. Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.

Jesus tells us that we are as valuable as a hidden treasure and as a priceless pearl.  Each of us in infinitely valuable to God and together, collectively, we are so amazing that we can with God’s help reveal heaven on earth.  The first step in our own healing is to know that we are deeply, immeasurably loved by God.  No exceptions, no caveats, no conditions.  You, yes, you, are deeply and infinitely loved by the God who created you in the divine image.  No one and no thing is more valuable to God than you.  

I invite you to make time each day, several times a day and say this: “no one and no thing is more valuable to God than I am.”  For those of you who shy away because it feels selfish and self-centered, let me assure you it is not.  It is scriptural. It is true. And the first step in finding infinite value in others is to first know it about ourselves.  Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength, and the second is to love our neighbor AS OURSELVES.  What keeps it from being self-centered and self-serving is that we learn to love ourselves so that we can love our neighbor and love God.  God finds you worth loving. Love yourself.  

Together

Originally posted on August 4, 2019 

Life in America feels dark to me. Voices and fists raised in hate and anger are the norm.  Violence is a daily occurrence.  Instinctually, I want to hide and just pretend it isn’t this way and wait to come out when it’s all “better”.  When I do look at it all, I find myself turning the pain and sadness into anger and I don’t want to direct that anger at anyone because by nature, I’m conflict avoidant, so it just seethes inside me. And yet I know that none of this will help, that the atmosphere in our country won’t get any better if I don’t do something.  Not that I think I have all the answers, I know I don’t, but that it is up to each and everyone of us to collectively to change things.  We are in this together, we got here together and the only way to journey out of this dark place we are in is together with God’s help.  What then shall we do?  

Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  If the answer to the violence in this world is love and compassion – and I definitely believe that is it – just how do we develop in ourselves the love and compassion this world needs?  It takes God’s help and our intentional actions and it takes us responding as a community bound together in our love for God and each other.  Let’s take our pain, anger, and fear and together with God’s help transform our reaction to the dangers and violence of this world into a loving response.  

I hope these posts will help us all develop and grow our compassion, as we pray together, ponder and reflect together, develop and strengthen our spiritual practices together. I pray we all open our hearts and souls to the transformative power of God’s love, so we and the world are changed for the better. I pray that each of us finds a way to see the love that God has for us and every human being so that we can be the vessels of divine love in this world.  If you have something you believe will help us all in this journey, please share it with me.  Participate and comment and share with us what you are doing with what I post and how it is affecting you and the people around you.  

Please join me on this journey of replacing the hate of this world with the love of God in all that we think, say, and do.  We are in it together, relying on each other’s talents and strength to be one body.  Each of us is needed and necessary.  Each of us is loved unconditionally by the God who created us all.  Each of us is an instrument of that love.  Together, with God’s help, we can change the world from “the nightmare it often is to the dream that God intends” (The Right Reverend Micheal Curry).  Won’t you please join me in this, loving, liberating, and live-giving work?  

If you do choose to walk with the path of love with others through these posts, I ask you to please follow these guidelines:  1) Allow space for those who may not express themselves in the same way you do.  2) Resist the urge to place blame in any way. Let’s focus on how each of us can do better (and remember you can only change yourself and no one else).  3) Do not mention political parties in any way shape, form, or label.  We are discussing a human heart and soul issue.  4) Above all else, be compassionate in your responses, after all, that is the purpose, to increase compassion in all of us.  

How this came to be…

Although it has taken over a year to bloom, the seed of this blog sprouted early on a Sunday morning, sitting in the dark in a hotel room in Dallas.  I couldn’t sleep and needed to transform all the thoughts in my head into words on a page.  As I opened the cover of my iPad and the usual news, email, and social media alerts vied for my attention, I caught sight of a headline about a shooting in Dayton, Ohio.  There were 9 dead, 17 wounded by gunfire and a total of 27 injured in the attack.  

I was in Dallas that weekend for an Enneagram boot camp lead by Suzanne Stabile – an event I’d been looking forward to for months.  Studying the Enneagram has been life changing and life giving for me.  My husband had come along with me and our daughter had driven up from San Antonio to hang out with us for the weekend.  The day before, as the Saturday session of boot camp was ending, Joe Stabile had informed us of a shooting in El Paso in which 22 were killed and 24 injured.

Two mass shootings in 13 hours. 31 precious lives lost and so many others upended by violence and hate. I struggled to comprehend what was happening in our world.  How could human life mean so little?  

The theme for the Enneagram boot camp was “what then shall we do” and this question was spinning in my soul. The thread that began to emerge from the spinning was compassion. And this thread began to weave itself into words and I began not just to dump thoughts but craft a response to the hate and anger so prevalent in the world.  

Suzanne talks a lot about doing what is ours to do. It’s a key component of the enneagram journey.   I’ve always written about what’s in my head.  I’ve never let others read what I write beyond what I prepare intentionally for my sermons and church newsletters. I’ve never believed I had anything to say of significance beyond the bounds of my parish. 

The gift God gave me that morning, sitting in the dark crying silently and typing as quietly as possible as the words poured out like Niagara Falls, was the assurance and confidence that this is mine to do. I pray it is useful and helpful for you.  

In Luke’s telling of the Gospel story, a group of people, after John the Baptizer has just preached to them that they cannot ride on the coattails of their ancestors but must live a life that reflects the loving compassion of our God, ask John, “What then should we do?”  John replies with specifics of how they can reveal the God of love and compassion in all that they do, every moment of every day.  (See Luke chapter 3.)

Revealing God’s love and compassion to the hurting and broken world is ours to do – all of us, you and me and God together, every moment of every day. 

I have reposted here the writings that I’ve shared on Facebook over the past year, with the original posting dates. I invite you to read them as you have time.  As I continue to post my writings here, I invite you to join in this conversational journey toward becoming more compassionate people following Jesus in the Kingdom of God. 

God’s peace, my friends.

Mtr. Nancy+