Many Christians have lost the true meaning of compassion. I wonder if some of us ever really knew it. Before someone re-read the actual definition of it to me back in February (2014), I had made a more generalized assumption about its implications. It's not just looking at someone hurting or someone in need and thinking to yourself, "Aww, man, that's too bad," which is the most minimal kind of responsiveness.
Compassion is a word of compound meaning that profoundly pummels the person experiencing it.
Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy or sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
First of all, compassion is:
1. Deep. // Extended far down from the top or surface. // When you are affected deeply, what affects you doesn't leave quickly or easily and it takes a lot out of you and bleeds into most of your thoughts and actions consciously and unconsciously.
2. Sympathy or Sorrow. // Sympathy is harmony of or agreement in feeling between persons of like tastes or opinion or of congenial dispositions. // Sorrow is grief, sadness, or regret; distress caused by loss, affliction or disappointment. // When you experience sympathy, you experience a similarity with the person in pain; you're not at odds with what they're going through. // When you experience sorrow, you experience a strata of pain and loss that literally and genuinely burdens your heart; you are not detached. You are not okay.
3. Another. // Further, additional, distinct, different. // Not for yourself. For someone else - a person outside yourself. This word does not say whether that person knows you, loves you or benefits you; this word only says it is someone else, freeing it to be anyone.
4. Stricken. // Wounded, beset, afflicted. // When someone has been stricken, they are functioning at a diminished capacity and a pained one.
5. Misfortune. // Adverse or evil fortune, bad luck, affliction, accident, disaster, calamity, catastrophe, blow, an unfortunate or disastrous event. // Misfortune is something they didn't want; something you wouldn't want either. Misfortune is universally undesirable.
6. Accompanied. // To go along with or in company with, to join in action, to associate with, to escort, to play or sing with, shadowed by, attended, escorted, chaperoned, consorted with, led by. // To be accompanied is to not be abandoned, to not be neglected, to not be left alone, to not be ignored, to not be lost, to not be left, to not be disregarded.
7. Strong. // Having, showing or able to exert great power; robust and vigorous, forceful, especially able, competent, firmness, courage. // If something is of a strong quality, it is not brittle or temporary or malleable; it is dynamically capable and indomitable, which is to say: unconquerable.
8. Desire. // To wish or long for, crave, want, as for something that brings satisfaction. // Desire can be understood as a need, a hunger, an ardor, a motive, urge, proclivity, devotion or yearning.
9. Alleviate. // To make easier to endure, lessen, mitigate, to lighten, diminish, abate, relieve, assuage. // To alleviate something is to - at the core - do something about it to change its current state so it is better than when you first were exposed to it. Alleviate is not a passive, abstract word; it implies action and engagement.
10. Suffering. // Agony, torture, pain, distress, torment, misery, ordeal, anguish, hardship, discomfort, grief, sorrow, dolor, sadness, affliction. // Suffering is universally feared. Suffering is something you would want alleviated. Suffering is so undesirable that the avoidance or alleviation of it is the selling point of manipulative & money-making marketing. Suffering does not feel good. It gives God no pleasure whatsoever: "It is a mistake to entertain the thought that God is pleased to see His children suffer" (Ellen White, Steps to Christ).
If you read all that ^ word for word, does your brain feel a little overwhelmed? If so, I think that's appropriate. The true meaning of compassion puts us to shame in contrast to how we live our lives, even with those we love. It is a struggle to not take our loved ones for granted at a certain point, and an even bigger struggle to cultivate such a proactive sensitivity to strangers as what compassion compels.