Daily Riches: The Complicated Work of Compassion (Pema Chödrön)

“Compassionate action involves working with ourselves as much as working with others. …To relate with others compassionately is a challenge. Really communicating to the heart and being there for someone else … means not shutting down on that person, which means, first of all, not shutting down on ourselves … allowing ourselves to feel what we feel and not pushing it away …accepting every aspect of ourselves, even the parts we don’t like. To do this requires openness…. Only in an open, nonjudgmental space can we acknowledge what we are feeling. Only in an open space where we’re not all caught up in our own version of reality can we see and hear and feel who others really are, which allows us to be with them and communicate with them properly. Recently I was talking with an old man who has been living on the streets for the last four years. Nobody ever looks at him. No one ever talks to him. Maybe somebody gives him a little money, but nobody ever looks in his face and asks him how he’s doing. The feeling that he doesn’t exist for other people, the sense of loneliness and isolation, is intense. He reminded me that the essence of compassionate speech or compassionate action is to be there for people, without pulling back in horror or fear or anger. …if we are people who want to help others … something we soon notice is that the person we set out to help may trigger unresolved issues in us. …We find ourselves hating those people or scared of them or feeling like we just can’t handle them. …Sooner or later, all our own unresolved issues will come up; we’ll be confronted with ourselves. …But that, in a nutshell, is how it works. If we find ourselves unworkable and give up on ourselves, then we’ll find others unworkable and give up on them. What we hate in ourselves, we’ll hate in others. To the degree that we have compassion for ourselves, we will also have compassion for others. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.”

“Praise Yahweh, my soul
who redeems your life from the pit    
and crowns you with love and compassion….”
Psalm 103:2-4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you respond with “horror, fear or anger” to a homeless person?
  • Can you admit those feelings and ask God to make for you a “non-judgmental space?”
  • Do you sometimes fail to “see, hear and feel who others really are?”

Abba, help me with compassion.

For More: When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God. – Bill