Today’s reflection comes to us from Chaplain Esther, who offers some refreshing thoughts drawn from a deep well of wisdom.
Compassion describes the work we are called to at Chaplaincy Health Care. It’s also what we extend to friends and family, as we try to support one another through the inevitable ups and downs of life. At times I, perhaps like you, can feel weighed down by compassion or empathy fatigue. That feeling of that I have no more to give. My spirits are lightened knowing I am not alone, so when I read the following, I felt better:
“Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken.
But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering.
What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.
Yet perhaps our greatest gift is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer.
Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates distance and distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other.
When I reflect on my own life, I realize that the moments of greatest comfort and consolation were moments when someone said, ‘I cannot take your pain away, I cannot offer you a solution to your problem, but I can promise you that I won’t leave you alone and will hold onto you as long and as well as I can.’
There is much grief and pain in our lives, but what a blessing it is when we do not have to live our grief and pain alone. That is the gift of compassion.”
–Henri J.M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Caregiving
I was comforted by these words and reminded that being present and available IS compassion.