Critical Compassion

Can I admit something?

Not for the sake of a response, but because it’s on my heart, and I feel compelled to be transparent?

I’ve been down, depressed, and discouraged these past few weeks.

Not every moment – I’m so grateful for the joyful anticipation of preparing for Auggie to arrive, of sitting still for extended moments just to feel him move around and of reorganizing our home and finances as we make our life ready for him to come.

But there have been several moments where I have broken down and wept. Sometimes it’s over the repeated and varied acts of violence in our world. But the tears have also streamed hot and furious out of frustrated confusion when I watch the world’s responses. I’ve found myself singing songs like “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” choking out the words  through tears, desperate for a dispersal of those “gloomy clouds of night.”

Now please hear me – 

I am not saying my response is the only correct one and others are wrong. I believe a variety are necessary because it takes many minds and varied strengths to find solutions. Asserting me vs. you or us vs. them is popular but deeply problematic.

But I am saying that through these past few weeks, I’ve been processing and praying and, well, watching you. Yes, you. All of you. I’ve been watching what you say and how you say it. I’ve been asking myself, and often you, why these things are being said. Sometimes I don’t ask, because I’m afraid to know the answer.

Because of what I’ve seen in others’ posts and in my own, I’m contemplating a cessation of posting anything political or controversial, specifically on Facebook. Only there do I see the worst kind of abuses, and I’m tired of being attacked and misunderstood (clearly I’m not cut out to be a politician or lead a movement myself). I have become aware that only those who already agree will respond positively. Minds are rarely changed on Facebook because in order for that to happen, the mind has to be open to the fact that it doesn’t already have the answers. The articles and posts have to be read from a stance of “what can I learn?” and not “what now?”

As a teacher, it’s harder for me than you might think to stay silent. I’m not used to closed, fixed minds so opposed to asking questions and then being interested in the answers. Even before teaching, I used to think that critical thinking was the magical key to understanding and knowledge. That as long as we could break down and process and analyze and postulate, we could find common ground, common themes, and eventually solutions. But this season has taught me that critical thinking is only a part of knowledge. Critical thinking without compassion is a mirror reflecting only existing beliefs, not understanding.

One day while, as mentioned earlier, trying to sing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” in the shower, and feeling very powerless to effect any change, a quiet thought broke through:

“Do you believe that justice is possible?”

And the answer in my heart is still, maddeningly, yes.

But it requires compassion. Listening. Being open to being wrong. It requires making statements and choices out of love, not fear.

Justice requires this reminder:

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (source)

For all the talk of voting based on moral grounds on either side of the fence, if we are unable to keep from spewing venom at those who disagree, we are the morally bankrupt ones. If we are unable to be mindful even of the venom that mean memes made of candidates (which I’m guilty of posting occasionally, too), we are the morally bankrupt ones. I don’t want to feed into that anymore, even if it means a cessation of positive, open posts. Because I know those posts will breed the wrong kind of response and there’s too much of that for me to handle right now.

We can have all of the answers to America’s problems, we can be the most critical of thinkers, but without compassion to filter decisions – without love – we are nothing.


One thought on “Critical Compassion

  1. Katie

    You’re far more eloquent than I to compose my thoughts for others to read. My most loving and thoughtful conversations, political and otherwise, have always been in person. As much as I’ve tried to apply diplomacy to conversation threads on social media, there are very, very few people prepared to admit there just could be another truth out there; yours, mine, his, hers. I’m having to actually Look for news now, since it doesn’t just run through my feed. It also means though that I can read, share with the people I know and not get sucked into conversation that only leads to frustration on both sides.


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