Last night as I was reflecting on compassion, I had a thought that had to do with pain and suffering. It seems to me that without pain and suffering, there would be no compassion. It is the prick of pain that awakens compassion.
The compassion that awakens is for oneself, for others, and for the created world. Genuine compassion is birthed out of the hurt that is felt as a deep ache in the soul. It is not self-pity or the kind of thinking that surrounds a martyr complex.
Self-pity and martyr thinking is centered around feeling sorry for oneself. Martyrs think that their pain and suffering is the result of what everyone else is doing. Martyrs see themselves as good people who don't deserve to suffer the way that they are suffering. They are doing right while others do them wrongly.
The problem with this is that martyrs and those engaging in self-pity have no sense of their own brokenness in their suffering situations. They would rather focus on the other. There can be no compassion for the other because martyrs are stuck feeling that they are justified in feeling badly. They don't step beyond self-pity to see what God might be doing in this place of pain.
Compassion feels pain but does not blame or justify. Compassion awakens when it is allowed to live and thrive in the heart of the one feeling pain. Compassion arises when pain is realized as a reality in a broken world and accepted as a normal way of experiencing life. Giving pain permission to be a part of our lives without fighting against it, invites compassion to exist side by side with the pain.
This is the Christian way: pain and compassion, compassion and pain.