Friday, March 16, 2007

Sympathy versus Compassion

I have come to grips recently with the fact that I am not and do not want to be a sympathetic person. That is to say: Sympathy is not one of my attributes and I like it that way. That is NOT to say that I lack compassion: I consider compassion to be of of the most important features of myself in regards to my personality and my profession.

Sympathy is an emotional response to ones surroundings-- good, bad, or positive-- and generally the sympathetic party shares in the emotions of others. Compassion relates specifically to the realization of the needs of others but does not necessarily imply an emotional connection. In reality, these two words come from similar roots and meanings but have taken on the subtle differences in terms of our everyday use.

I take some shame and some pride all at the same time in the fact that I, unlike most females, am extremely brain-oriented, very literal, and most of the time very much less emotionally driven than my female counterparts (90% of them anyway). I have figured out that this lack of sympathy, lack of of "girliness" in fact, has made it difficult to relate to girls in general-- this is bad. However, this same lack of "girliness" allows me to be skeptical and logical about almost all aspects of my life-- this is good.

In a recent conversation with my brother in law, we discussed Counterfeit Revival, an informative exposE on the "revivals" of the late 1990's that sprang up in North America. I have not read the book but am eager to do so; my eagerness stems from the depth to which my own home church fell into the mire that surrounded the so-called 'revival' in a Brownsville church. I never joined into this fully-- dancing and invigorated worship, I could do and actually enjoyed. I have to say that mind in its naive ignorance did not throw up enough red flags at the time--how could I accept some of this "movement" and totally reject others? Either the entire thing lines up with Scripture or it does not--logical, yes? Looking back now, I reel at the mess I could have fallen into and thank God I was protected. I believe there were two mechanisms God used for my spiritual protection: 1) My parents who, from the time I was a small child, instilled Scripture knowledge and logic into my small soul; 2) my lack of girl-like sympathy and my science-oriented brain. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to a chance to read this book, but in the meantime, this is certain: All things should be tested and verified with Scripture-- multiple passages within proper context. Logic is a valuable tool. Sympathy has its place in the hearts and personalities of individuals; however, I am thankful for a more logical alternative: Compassion....

Compassion allows me to watch a terror-stricken kid be told by administrators and parents that "things have got to change," and turn around and lay out a step-by-step plan by which we as teachers can help the kid get things back on track. Compassion allows me to see a need and define a solution; it is ok with me that I do not feel sorry for the individual in distress-- I'd rather not, to be honest. Compassion allows me to leave my work behind every afternoon. Compassion causes me to appreciate deep discussions with Brothers (in law) and discuss a past that is difficult to understand without feeling sorry for myself or wishing I could change things. Compassion helps me see past the euphoria of a Salvation experience to the next logical steps-- discipleship and Scripture reading-- my relationship with Christ is not emotional really at all. I am thankful for compassion. I pray God would help me to use it in a way that glorifies him and for the purposes of His kingdom.

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