But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God."
~ Ruth 1:16
So much of what I have experienced this week has reminded me that in order for me to become compassionate to others, I must be willing to become vulnerable and allow for my own wounds to become known.
In our final discussions this week, my cousin John and I talked about what it means to show compassion for someone, rather than pity. He told me, "I don't want people to pity me. I know what my life has been like."
In his words he reminded me that in order to be compassionate towards others, we must be willing to open ourselves up to our own pain. Compassion for others means that we are willing to be with those who are suffering, but only once we are willing to become vulnerable as well.
While John and I share a family bond, and have a common place to begin, for the stranger that we meet on the street, our ability to recognize them as our brother or sister must mean that we must be willing to be present with them in a vulnerable way.
To be able to admit our own woundedness, humanness, and own struggles, creates both a place of honesty, but also transparency and opens up a place where we can be in relationship with others. We become compassionate when we cease to be "other," and when we can allow for others to see us as ourselves and recognize our common threads.
My cousin's journey called me to become aware of my own suffering. I was reminded that I cannot respond to someone being lonely, unless I can draw upon my own times of being lonely. I believe it was Henri Nouwen who confessed, "How can I be with the poor, unless I am willing to confess my own poverty?"
Having compassion for others means allowing for our own vulnerability, and sharing that vulnerability with others, recognizing that the image that God created each of us in is that of God's. It is in this vulnerability that we learn the greatest lesson. To love ourselves, and to have compassion for others as we become vulnerable.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.